How did Justice in Motion help the separated families? 

After deporting hundreds of separated parents, the United States government declared them “ineligible” for reunification, because they were no longer in the U.S. But at Justice in Motion, we know that migrant rights cannot stop at the border. We mobilized our on-the-ground Defender Network of human rights lawyers and NGOs across Mexico and Central America to find the parents deported without their children and help families to reunite in their countries of origin.

By late May of 2018, our Defenders were in direct communication with several parents who were deported to Central America without their children. Those Defenders helped to document what the parents were suffering and connect them with lawyers in the U.S. In late June, the ACLU’s  Ms. L. v. ICE litigation forced the U.S. government to reunify families who had been separated.

At that moment, the scope of the problem became clear: the U.S. government had deported more than 400 parents without their children, and they had no plan to reunite them. We saw the scale of families’ needs and realized that our network was uniquely positioned to reach these parents and ensure that they had access to reunification and justice.

In close partnership with our fellow members of the Ms. L. v. ICE Steering Committee, we reached all the deported parents in the Ms. L class. (For a snapshot of Defenders’ journeys to find the parents, visit our Press page.) Justice in Motion then helped parents understand the legal process and make informed decisions, whether asking that their child be returned to their country of origin, or that they be placed with families in the U.S. Our Defenders took on cases that were challenging because of indigenous languages, protection needs, and other complications. Ultimately, Justice in Motion submitted 59 preference declarations to the court, ensuring that those parents had a voice in their children’s futures.

Once reunifications began in countries of origin, Justice in Motion worked closely with Al Otro Lado to reimburse parents for their expenses as they traveled to capital cities to reunite with their children. Defenders throughout Central America accompanied 43 reunifications – serving as trusted, local points of contact for parents through a confusing and lengthy process.

The government’s lack of urgency in fixing the harm it has caused is appalling. Each additional day of separation only compounds the injury to these families.
— Executive Director Cathleen Caron, Sept. 2018

Some of the parents suffered not only separation, but the denial of a fair asylum process. These parents first fled to the U.S. with their children to seek protection from persecution, as is their right under U.S. and international law. Our Defenders and staff screened deported parents for protection needs, referred parents for individual representation, and helped to submit 41 parents’ asylum declarations to the government. For some, however, the asylum re-application mechanism under the Ms. L settlement was not swift enough to keep them safe. As a result, Al Otro Lado moved a group of 29 parents through Central America and Mexico to present their cases in the U.S. Justice in Motion worked behind the scenes to provide logistical support and get families the documents they needed in their countries of origin. This work continues, as some asylum-seeking families remain in Central America, and the outcome of government negotiations is still uncertain.

In the News

  • Together Rising - Reunion of 6-Year-Old with Family After 9 Months

  • Just Security - Arbitrary Detention of Asylum Seekers Perpetuates the Torture of Family Separation

  • ACLU - Separated From Their Children By U.S. Immigration, Jubilation As These Parents Win Entry In Mexicali

  • NPR - Federal Immigration Agents Separated More Migrant Children Than Previously Thought

  • NYR Daily - The Battle to Stop Family Separation

  • Democracy Now! - Mental Health Experts & Rights Groups Call for Unceasing Media Coverage of Separated Migrant Children

  • New York Times - Why Big Law Is Taking on Trump Over Immigration

  • People Magazine - Big Little Lies Star Laura Dern Makes Passionate Plea to Protect Environment and Immigrants

  • WLRN - More Than 200 Migrant Children Are Still In Federal Custody, Separated From Families

  • ACLU - Family Separation by the Numbers

  • Daily Mail - Revealed: ICE officials deported immigrant children without notifying parents when to pick them up

  • Huffington Post - ICE Is Sending Separated Children Home With No One To Pick Them Up

  • Prensa Libre - La díficil tarea de reunir a migrantes con sus hijos, separados por el plan tolerancia cero

  • The Texas Tribune - Hundreds of migrant kids haven't been reunited with their parents. What's taking so long?

  • VICE News - More than 400 parents were deported without their kids. This is what it takes to find them.

  • ACLU - In Guatemala, a Tireless Search for Parents Separated From Their Children

  • Democracy Now! - As 400+ Children Remain Separated from Parents, Trump Admin Wants to Detain Kids Indefinitely

  • NPR - Searching for Deported Parents in Guatemala, While Children Wait In The U.S.

  • Human Rights Watch - US: Deported Parents' Agonizing Wait

  • Huffington Post - Inside The Desperate Search For 343 Parents Deported Without Their Kids

  • New York Times - For Families Split at Border, an Anguished Wait for Children's Return

  • Los Angeles Times - In mountains of Guatemala, searching for parents deported from U.S. without children

  • New York Times - The Continuing Tragedy of the Separated Children

  • Washington Post - The Trump administration’s legacy of orphans

  • ACLU - More Than 500 Children Are Still Separated. Here’s What Comes Next.

  • VICE News - NGOs are using flyers and radio to find Guatemalan parents deported without their kids

  • Huffington Post - ICE Withheld Deported Parents’ Phone Numbers From Lawyers, ACLU Says

  • San Diego Union-Tribune - Feds report good progress tracking down hundreds of deported parents in reunification effort

  • National Catholic Reporter - Civil groups lead efforts to reunite children with deported parents

  • VICE News - The Trump administration wants someone else to find the 400 parents it deported without their kids

  • NPR (WFAE 90.7) - Immigration Lawyers Criticize Plan To Reunite Migrant Families

  • ABC News - Judge rejects government call for ACLU to bear reunification responsibility

  • NPR - Government, Immigration Advocates Continue Court Clash Over Family Reunification

  • The Nation - The US Deported 468 Parents—but Kept Their Children

  • Talking Points Memo - Inside The Search For The 468 Parents Deported Without Their Children

  • Bustle - What Will Happen To Immigrant Children Who Haven't Been Reunited? Their Options Are Limited

  • The Atlantic - The Lost Ones

  • Los Angeles Times - As reunification deadline arrives, fear and uncertainty persist for many migrant families