On June 20th, President Trump signed his executive order to end the controversial months-long policy of family separation of illegal migrants at the border. Since then, the path to reunifying those families who were systematically separated has been arduous. A California court ordered the Trump administration to return all children under the age of five by Tuesday, July 10, and only about one-third of those known 102 families have been successfully reunified. Of the reunions that have occurred between parents and their children, which were set to be completed by the end of the day yesterday, there has been even more heartbreak: parents are saying their young children don’t remember them.
Upon being reunited with their toddler-aged children, some parents have reported that their toddler-aged children are confused and don’t remember them. “He didn’t recognize me,” Mice Alba Lopez said, referring to her three-year-old son to The New York Times. Other parents told the Times that their children believe that the other children with whom they were detained — in cages — were their siblings. Some became very distraught when they were separated from the kids who they had been locked up with for months. One child cried out for the social worker who took care of him for the months he was in detainment.
Besides the fact that many children have forgotten what their parents look like, the entire reunification process, per the Times, has been chaotic. Pick-up and drop-off times at detainment centers changed with little or no notice; parents were still being forced to complete background checks on the day of their supposed reunification. Parents reported that their children had regressed developmentally, with some saying that kids who were potty-trained before detainment reverted to diaper usage while in custody. In order to pick up their children, the previously detained adults were given ankle monitors, essentially returning the U.S.’s immigration policy to “catch and release” practices — a process Trump had railed against before he became president.
The administration has until July 26 to reunite migrant children over the age of five with their parents. Given how the first round of family reunification has gone so far, it’s unclear whether or not the government will be able to accomplish the reunifications of thousands of immigrant children back to their families by the deadline.