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ACLU: More than 900 migrant children separated from parents at border

In this image, a line of migrants stand outside, several holding small children.
Undocumented migrants waiting to be processed by U.S. Border Patrol on May 15 in McAllen, Tex. Photo: Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

ACLU lawyers told a federal judge on Tuesday that 911 migrant children have been removed from their parents since last year's court reunification order for separated families, the Washington Post reports.

What's happening: The ACLU urged the judge to clarify when family separation should be allowed, as the organization claims children are being separated for "minor alleged offenses," including traffic violations. The ACLU also asked the federal judge to block the Trump administration from continuing to separate families, per its Tuesday press release.

The backdrop: Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan testified on July 18 that Customs and Border Protection can remove a child from their parent or legal guardian when:

  • The parent or legal guardian poses a danger to the child
  • Is otherwise unfit to care for the child
  • Has a criminal history
  • Has a communicable disease
  • Is transferred to a criminal detention setting for prosecution for a crime other than improper entry to the U.S.
  • CBP is unable to confirm that the adult is actually the parent or legal guardian
  • The child's safety is at risk

McAleenan testified last month that 1 to 3 family separations "occurred out of approximately 1,500 to 3,000 family members apprehended each day," per the Post. He added that separations occur “under very controlled circumstances.”

  • He testified that "DHS rarely detains accompanied children and their parents or legal guardians for longer than approximately twenty days."
  • In at least one case, a migrant child has been detained by CBP in one facility for weeks. That report included instances of sexual abuse and degrading language by CBP officers, as well as unsanitary and crowded conditions.

The big picture: The federal government has reported that nearly 3,000 children were forcibly separated from their families at the zenith of the "zero tolerance" policy. Federal officials said it could take 2 years for them to identify those children, as they review 47,000 who were referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and then discharged, per the NYT.

Go deeper: Thousands more migrant children may be separated than previously known