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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

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.