DHS Statement on Family Reunification
The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a statement outlining the administration’s four-point plan to reunite minor children separated from their parents at the border. Beginning July 10, 2018, HHS and DHS will coordinate the reunification of children under 5 years of age currently in the custody of HHS, with parents who are in DHS custody.
#1 Verification of Parental Relationship
The administration will first ensure that a parental relationship with the child has been verified before reunifying the child with his or her parent. In addition, the parent must undergo a background check to ensure that reunification will not compromise the safety and welfare of the child. If a parent is found unsuitable for reunification purposes, in the course of a background check, the child will not be reunified with the parent. Parents who are in the custody of the U.S. Marshall or in a state or county jail for other offenses may not be reunified with their child.
#2 Transportation of Parents to ICE custody
Parents separated from their children will be transported to ICE custody where they will be reunited with their parents. Beginning July 10, 2018, DHS will coordinate physical reunification of minor children under 5 years of age with parents transported to ICE custody, provided the parent has been cleared for parentage and poses no danger to the child.
#3 Preparation of Children under Five Years of Age for Transportation
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will coordinate transportation of minor children under the age of five for reunification purposes. Children will be transported under supervision and their possessions will be brought with them to ICE custody.
#4 Transfer of Custody
Upon arrival to the ICE facility, the custody of the minor child will be transferred from HHS to ICE, who will then coordinate reunification of the parent and child. HHS will provide ICE documentation certifying parentage and verification that the parent does not pose a danger to the child.
Children not eligible for reunification
14 children have been found ineligible for reunification because their parents have been found to pose a danger to the child’s welfare and/or safety. Of these children, 8 parents had a serious criminal history, 5 adults were found not to be the parent of the child, and 1 parent faces credible evidence of child abuse.
13 other children have been found ineligible for reunification because their parents have been found to pose a danger to the child’s welfare and/or safety, are being treated for a communicable disease, or the parent is currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service or in state or county custody.
DHS has identified 71 children who are eligible for reunification, but several challenges exist in these cases. The parents of 12 of these children have already been removed from the U.S. The government is working to contact these parents to determine how the parent wishes to reunite with their children in their country of origin.
Children 5 years of age or older
ICE is planning to coordinate larger scale family reunification with children aged 5-17 years of age. These children would be transported to ICE custody for purposes of family reunification. Officials are currently working with parents under the custody of ICE to complete family verification tests, facilitate contact between the parent and child, and assist with family sponsorship application materials.
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Diplomatic Visa Sanctions on Burma and Laos
On July 10, DHS announced the implementation of visa sanctions on Burma and Laos owing to the government’s failure to accept citizens who have been removed from the United States. According to Secretary Nielsen the governments of Burma and Laos “have denied or unreasonable delayed accepting their nationals,” who have been removed from the United States.
As a result, beginning July 9, 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma has been instructed to discontinue the issuance of all B1 and B2 nonimmigrant visas “for current officials at the Director General level and above from the Burmese Ministries of Labor, Immigration, and Population and Human Affairs, and their immediate family members.
Beginning July 9, 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos has been instructed to discontinue the issuance of all B1, B2, and B1/B2 nonimmigrant visas “for current officials at the Director General level and above from the Lao Ministry of Public Security as well as their immediate families,” and all A3 and G5 nonimmigrant visas issued to government employees.
The Department of State reserves the right to suspend the issuance of visas for any category of visa or visa applicants from Burma and Laos.