Lawyers and immigrant advocates working in south Texas this week reported widespread disarray as the federal government scrambled to meet a court-imposed deadline of July 26 for reunifying families separated by immigration officials under the “zero tolerance” measures.
The scheduled meetings of a Dallas attorney to represent his clients before an immigration judge weren’t effective yesterday. The immigrants banned by the U.S.-Mexico border authorities were no longer at Texas immigrant detention facility and it was unclear if they had been released or transferred to other facilities.
A mother, separated from her child by immigration authorities after she crossed the border illegally, had been released from the Port Isabel Detention Center and her attorney is unable to determine whether she had been reunited with her child.
“We don’t know what their status is except they’re no longer in the system,” a Dallas attorney said. “We don’t know where people are right now and it’s been a struggle to get information.”
Texas lawyers struggle to tracking down clients who were suddenly released or transferred to family detention centers and the government employees often knew little about their clients’ status or location.
A government court filing on Thursday said that 364 reunifications had taken place so far. It was unclear from the document, filed as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging parent-child separations at the border, exactly how many more were likely.
Of more than 2,500 parents identified as potentially eligible to be reunited with their children, 848 have been interviewed and cleared for reunification, government attorneys told the court. Another 91 have been deemed ineligible because of criminal records or for other reasons.