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A woman, Maria, is reunited with her son, aged 4, at the El Paso International Airport after being separated for one month. Photo: Joe Raedle via Getty Images

The July 26 federal court deadline for the Trump administration to return more than 2,500 migrant children (aged 5–17) to their families has come and gone, and it is clear that the administration has fallen short of full reunification. According to a July 26 California district court filing, the administration has reunited only slightly more than half (1,442 of 2,551) the separated children with their families.

The big picture: The debate around family reunification failure is often perceived as one between restrictive and open immigration standards, but that is not the central issue. Rather, the question is to what extent the U.S. government should uphold a standard of competence and a commitment to basic human dignity in carrying out all its policy positions.

The details: The July 26 filing also indicated that more than 700 children had been classified as ineligible for reunification or "not available for discharge at this time." Poor record-keeping and a lack of clear process from the initial stages have made it prohibitively difficult to find some families and reunite small children, some of whom are younger than five.

The U.S. government has a responsibility to execute its functions — regardless of the particular policy in play — in an effective manner, which includes basic record-keeping as well as effective and clear communication with those impacted by policies. Likewise, in view of its history of championing human rights, the U.S. holds a moral and ethical responsibility to treat all people in the country — citizens or not — with basic human dignity.

The bottom line: The government can carry out tighter or looser immigration standards without sacrificing efficacy or violating human rights. These traditionally are not considered variables contingent on policy, but rather the premises upon which U.S. democracy operates.

Nicole Bibbins Sedaca is a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Go deeper

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.