The Department of Justice (DOJ) has admitted it may have accidentally separated a father and toddler who might be U.S. citizens. The DOJ told a federal judge on Tuesday, July 10, the family may have been divided for up to a year already, The Guardian reports.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chastised the Trump administration's handling of the family separation and called the DOJ's news "horrible."
The boy in question is one of the children under 5-years-old Judge Dana Sabraw ordered be reunited with their families by July 10. The government has missed that deadline and said it expected to have only 38 children reunified by the end of July 10.
Sabraw would not extend the deadline as the government improperly separated families in the first place. “These are firm deadlines. They’re not aspirational goals,” Sabraw said.
Precisely what penalty, if any, the government will be forced to pay for missing the deadline remains to be seen.
Part of the reason reunification has been difficult is because the government kept incomplete records, and experts believe this is how the alleged citizens may have been separated.
“The fact that a citizen got caught up in this mess shows just how poor the government’s record-keeping was, and this is just the latest example,” said Lee Gelernt, ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project deputy director.
The scariest part is, though this particular incident is documented, it isn't necessarily isolated. “It actually happens much more frequently than you would believe,” noted Gelernt. “They [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] make mistakes.”
Adding to the overall tragedy, The Cut reports that some toddlers reunited with their families no longer recognize their parents.
“He didn’t recognize me,” Mirce Alba Lopez, tearfully told The New York Times of the moment she was finally reunited with her 3-year-old son, Ederson. “My joy turned temporarily to sadness.”
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