A week after a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite more than 2,000 migrant children who were separated from their parents in May and June, the administration has instructed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents not to allow reunited migrant families to wait together for a decision on asylum, giving parents only two options: To be deported with their children or without them.
According to a copy of a government form obtained by NBC News, ICE agents have been ordered to read a form to migrant parents that asks them to choose one of two options: “I am requesting to reunite with my child(ren) for the purpose of repatriation to my country of citizenship” or “I am affirmatively, knowingly, and voluntarily requesting to return to my country of citizenship without my minor child(ren) who I understand will remain in the United States to pursue available claims of relief.”
Advocates tell NBC News that migrants who have already passed their initial asylum screenings are being presented with the form.
“We are seeing cases where people who have passed credible fear interviews and have pending asylum claims are being given this form,” said Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who is leading a class action lawsuit for family reunification.
Under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, immigration agents had been instructed to separate all children from parents caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Trump was forced to reverse that decision after massive public outcry with a June 20 executive order. His order did not provide a clear path toward reunification for more than 2,300 children who had already been separated.
Last Tuesday, a judge ordered that children under 5 years old must be reunited with their parents within 14 days. Children over age 5 have to be reunited within 30 days.
The Hill adds:
NBC reported asylum law states that immigrants who have been detained should still be permitted to make a claim for asylum, whether or not they were given a deportation order.
Kids in Need of Defense, which provides pro bono legal services to immigrants, suggested to NBC News that ICE is forcing migrant parents to waive their right to asylum by holding their children “hostage.”