US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been directed to give immigrantsthe option of agreeing to deportation to see their children again, even those migrants who have filed credible fear reports should they be sent back to their home countries.
That directive, outlined in a government form obtained by NBC News, came after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that he said was aimed at reuniting the 2,000 or so immigrant children who were separated from their parents by the US government at the border.
But, the directive does not give parents the opportunity to reunite with their children while they wait on the conclusion of their asylum, a claim that many migrants crossing into the US are likely to make if they are coming from violent countries in Central America where gang violence is rampant.
“We are seeing cases where people who have passed credible fear interviews and have pending asylum claims are being given this form,” Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the news network, noting that even those migrants who seem likely to be in danger should they be sent back to their countries are being asked to essentially self-deport.
Forcing the parents to make the decision between leaving with or without their children, advocates say, is essentially preventing those migrants from asking for asylum.
US asylum laws requires border agents to allow migrants to make an asylum claim before a judge, even if they have been given deportation orders.
The 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the US border earlier this year under Mr Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which instructed US immigration forces to separate parents from their kids if they were caught crossing the border illegally.
The policies sparked a national and international backlash, with many questioning how the government planned on reunifying the families — or if there was such a plan at all.
Mr Trump, facing that intense criticism, later signed an executive order that was intended at ending that policy.
Parents who have arrived in the US with their children after June 20 are being kept together in detention, instead of being forced apart.