The Trump administration will not reunite any migrant children with parents still held in immigrant detention facilities unless current federal law changes first, a top administration official told Congress on Tuesday.
The statement by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whose agency currently has custody of 2,047 children who were separated from their parents after being apprehended crossing the border illegally, confirmed what immigrant advocates have feared: The administration will reunite children with their parents quickly only if the parents drop their claims for asylum in the U.S. and agree to be deported.
Under administration policy, immigrants claiming asylum are held in detention awaiting a hearing — a process that can often take months or years. Because current law allows children to be held in immigrant detention facilities for no more than 20 days, Azar’s agency would not place any of the children with parents who are in those facilities, he said.
“If the parent remains in detention, unfortunately, under rules that are set by Congress and the courts, they can’t be reunified while they’re in detention,” Azar said.
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