A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that the agency is “in the planning mode” for reunification of the 50 parents separated from their children at the border and brought to the ICE detention center in Aurora.
These parents were separated from their children under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy of border enforcement, which went into effect in April.
President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday, saying he intended to end some family separations at the border and instead detain families together indefinitely.
Asked when the 50 parents in Aurora who were separated in recent weeks from their children can expect reunification, ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said during a phone interview Friday, “I can tell you that a plan is either being worked out or has been worked out.”
Pressed for specifics, Rusnok hung up the phone.
A follow-up email to ICE’s media office was not returned.
If there is, in fact, a plan being “worked out” for the Aurora parents — or perhaps already worked out, as Rusnok suggested might be the case — it’s news to attorneys keeping tabs.
Representatives of the ACLU of Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Immigration Advocacy Network and the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Colorado branch all said Friday they’ve not been told of any plans for reunification of the parents brought here from the border.
“It’s our understanding that there is no plan to reunite the children that were separated prior to the executive order,” said John Krieger, ACLU of Colorado spokesman. “We have not seen anything like that.”
There’s been no public evidence of any reunification plans for parents of the other roughly 2,300 immigrant children detained under the “zero-tolerance” policy. On Friday, the New York Times quoted unnamed administration officials saying they have “finalized a process to let parents know where their children are and to have regular communication with them after separation. Parents who are deported will be reunited with their children before being removed from the country.”
In accounts provided to The Colorado Independent on Wednesday, three mothers separated from their children at the border and brought to Aurora testified to the emotional pain of the separation they’re currently enduring. One of them said she has no idea where her son is.
“It’s a big question,” Henry Lucero, a director of field operations at ICE, told reporters in Texas Friday when asked about how the government will facilitate family reunification. “There have not been a lot of answers.
On Saturday, two Colorado Congress members, Republican Mike Coffman and Democrat Diana DeGette, visited the border. Both are up for reelection this year.
DeGette tweeted from Texas that Trump’s “vague order this week has no provisions for reuniting shattered refugee families and will still keep them locked up illegally. Disgraceful.”
Coffman tweeted on Thursday that he was glad Trump signed the order, but added, “The President should put a General, a respected retired CEO… or some other senior leadership figure on the job of making sure each and every child is returned to their parents. And the President should fire (senior White House advisor) Stephen Miller now. This is a human rights mess.”
The facility in Aurora has 1,500 beds and is run by GEO Group, a private prison company with a federal contract. There isn’t enough bed space at the border for all the children and adults picked up there, and so ICE has sent them all around the country.
The full list of locations of the children and parents isn’t known publicly, but the Washington Post has reported children are being held in at least 15 different states. Colorado is not one of them.
“We (ICE) detain on a daily basis more than 38,000 people every single day,” Rusnok said early in Friday’s interview. “And so it’s a very dynamic system that’s always changing.
“When you’re detaining 38,000 people on a daily basis, you place people wherever there’s detention space.”