The Latest: Kansas governor orders scrutiny of group homes
TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) — The Latest on the separation of immigrant children from their parents following President Donald Trump’s order allowing them to remain with their parents (all times local):
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer ordered an immediate inspection of Topeka group homes that are housing unaccompanied immigrant children.
Colyer directed the state Department for Children and Families to inspect The Villages homes Friday after four Democratic state legislators criticized him during a Statehouse news conference. They said Colyer was not being aggressive enough in seeking information about the immigrant children there.
The Villages has a federal contract to house 50 unaccompanied immigrant children at its seven group homes in Topeka and Lawrence. But it won’t say whether any of them had been separated from their parents during recent crackdown at the border.
Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr said the state doesn’t have control over the federal contract but can ensure that the homes continue to meet state standards.
Ryan Patrick, the top federal prosecutor in South Texas, says he continues to file all illegal entry cases referred to him by border authorities, keeping the zero tolerance policy in effect at his office. What’s unclear is if the Border Patrol has pulled back on referring cases to him.
“Right now we’re looking at what we’re going to do. Whatever we do we are going to keep the families together,” Manuel Padilla, chief of the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector, said at news conference at the agency’s station in Weslaco.
A top immigration official says it’s unclear how family reunification will occur now that President Donald Trump ordered parents and children no longer be split.
“It’s a big question. There have not been a lot of answers,” said Henry Lucero, a director of field operations at Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Lucero spoke at a forum at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco headlined by U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Texas Republicans.
ICE, which detains the patents, says family reunification isn’t new to the agency but the numbers are larger now. Lucero said in the majority of cases he knows during his career, the parent asks to be deported and leave the child with a caretaker, typically a relative.
Sister Norma Pimentel of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley pushed back, saying parents choose to go home without their children because it takes four months to reunite.
Lucero disagreed, saying it “generally takes days” for ICE to reunite a willing parent with the child, who is monitored by the Health and Human Services Department.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says there are approximately 100 migrant children separated from their families in the city, but that city officials have little information about them.
Garcetti told reporters at City Hall on Friday that he wants the children to be reunited with their parents as soon as possible, but they are under federal jurisdiction and beyond the city’s control.
The two-term Democrat says many of the children are very young, including some too young to identify their parents.
The children are with foster families or group homes contracted with the federal government, but the city did not know where. The city learned of them from activists and other groups that take in unaccompanied minors.
He says the federal government will not share any information.
Three Democratic U.S. senators say a holding facility for immigrant children on the Texas border near El Paso appears to be occupied by about 250 teenage boys mostly from Central America.
The lawmakers made the discovery Friday as they pushed for more information about the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy for immigrants crossing the border illegally.
The fenced-off cluster of tents near Tornillo on Texas’ border with Mexico and other holding facilities for immigrant children are under scrutiny amid confusion over President Donald Trump’s order to stop separating migrant children from families detained while crossing into the U.S. illegally.
A contractor that operates the shelter 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of El Paso briefed U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut without letting the lawmakers enter holding areas or speak with detained minors.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has visited a Miami-area facility housing more than 1,000 teenage migrants.
After his tour Friday, the Florida Republican said he didn’t speak to any of the children inside the Homestead complex because of privacy regulations.
Officials say all the children are classified as unaccompanied minors, including fewer than 70 who were separated from adult relatives at the border.
He said splitting up families at the border was “a terrible situation,” but the U.S. doesn’t have the money or the capacity to hold families together when they are detained by immigration authorities.
Rubio said Congress would need to create those kinds of facilities. He added the desire to keep families together needed to be supported with policies that would help prevent people from making dangerous journeys to flee violence in their homelands.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has issued a notice that it may seek up to 15,000 beds to detain immigrant families.
The agency on Friday put out a request for information to help in planning for potential new family detention facilities.
The notice comes after the administration stopped separating immigrant children from their parents on the southwest border amid public outcry and officials said they intended to seek to detain families together during immigration proceedings.
The agency currently has about 3,300 beds for immigrant parents and their children in family detention facilities.
The notice comes amid a scramble by federal agencies to find space for immigrants.
The Pentagon says it’s drawing up plans to house up to 20,000 unaccompanied children on military bases.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says that 66 of the more than 2,300 migrant children separated from their families at the border in recent weeks under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy are in Chicago area shelters.
The Illinois Democrat said Friday two-thirds of those children are below the age of 13.
Durbin’s comments marked the first time a public official has specified how many of them are in the Chicago area.
They remain separated from their parents after Trump this week signed an order to stop separating families who cross the border illegally.
The children are being cared at shelters run by Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit human rights organization.
Some of the parents who were separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border are being held at an immigration facility in suburban Denver.
U.S. Customs and Immigration said Friday that 50 parents are being held at its detention center in Aurora.
Spokesman Carl Rusnok said he didn’t have any more details about how long those people had been held at the center, which is run by a private contractor, the GEO Group.
Immigration attorneys say they’ve been working to get parents released on bond as they try to reunite with their children.
Louisiana Democratic state senators have pushed legislation asking Gov. John Bel Edwards to recall Louisiana National Guard troops at the Texas border until separated families who entered illegally are reunited with their children.
A Senate committee on Friday advanced the legislation with a 3-1 vote, solely on Democratic support. Republican Sen. Neil Riser voted against the measure.
Louisiana has had a three-person National Guard team and one helicopter at the border since May. Edwards, a Democrat, announced Wednesday that the team will remain until mid-July as planned.
Edwards said the crew had no role in separating families, a policy the governor criticized as “unconscionable.”
The father of the girl who is pictured crying on the cover of this week’s Time magazine says the Honduran foreign ministry told him that his daughter is detained with her mother in McAllen, Texas, and the two have not been separated.
Denis Varela says he hasn’t heard from his wife or daughter in almost three weeks. The girl’s mother apparently took their daughter to the United States without telling him.
Varela, a dockworker who lives in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, said that the ministry had given him the girl’s detainee identification number. He was told his daughter was in McAllen with her mother, but nothing else.
The girl’s photo was apparently taken when she and her mother were first detained by Border Patrol officers and the mother was being searched.
A coalition of progressives in Nevada upset with the Trump administration’s immigration policy is urging a national association of school-based law enforcement officers to withdraw its invitation to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to speak at a school safety conference in Reno next week.
Sessions is scheduled to address the National Association of School Resource Officers at a Reno hotel-casino on Monday.
Leaders of more than a dozen labor unions, women’s, religious and minority groups sent a letter Thursday asking the association to rescind its invitation to Sessions because of the administration’s stand on immigration.
They said “rolling out the welcome mat to Sessions” would demonstrate complicity with his support for the “zero tolerance” policy of separating migrant parents and children at the U.S. border.
Spokesman Jay Farlow of the Alabama-based association had no immediate comment.
Four Democratic state lawmakers from Kansas are demanding that Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer be more aggressive in seeking answers about immigrant children housed in northeast Kansas group homes.
They accused Colyer Friday of being passive about getting information about reports that some children separated from their parents are being housed by the nonprofit agency The Villages.
Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr said the federal government didn’t notify the administration of its plans and the state has sought information.
The Villages confirmed Thursday that it has a federal contract to house 50 unaccompanied immigrant children at seven group homes in Topeka and Lawrence.
But it would not say whether any of them had been separated from their parents during recent crackdown at the border.
A lawyer says Friday has marked the first time since May 24 that no parents charged with crossing border illegally in the McAllen, Texas area had been separated from their kids.
Efren Olivares of the Texas Civil Rights Project advocacy group has been interviewing adult immigrants to track them and their children through separate government processing systems.
Olivares says the development Friday at the federal court in McAllen appears to be “a consequence of a change in policy by the government.”
A senior Trump administration official told The Associated Press that about 500 of the more than 2,300 children separated from their parents had been reunited since May.
Olivares says his group has had contact with 381 parents separated from their children, and that none had confirmed being reunited.
He says some children were successfully placed with sponsors, including relatives in the U.S.
— Colleen Long in Washington.
The U.N human rights office says President Donald Trump’s decision to stop the U.S. policy separating migrant parents from their children doesn’t go far enough.
A Trump executive order ended the policy of separations. Families will still be detained, just together.
Human rights office spokeswoman Ravini Shamdasani said Friday that “children should never be detained for reasons related to their or their parents’ migration status.”
Shamdasani urged the U.S. to overhaul its migration policy, such as by relying on “non-custodial and community-based alternatives” under the “logic of care” rather than that of law enforcement.
Also Friday, a group of nearly a dozen independent human rights experts commissioned by the U.N. said the new U.S. policy “may lead to indefinite detention of entire families in violation of international human rights standards.”
U.S. officials have allowed journalists to tour a South Florida facility housing more than 1,000 teenage migrants but did not let them take photos or record video during the visit.
Private contractors who run the center for unaccompanied minors in Homestead, Florida., showed journalists around the campus like-complex for about an hour.
The complex includes dorm-style buildings where children sleep up to 12 per room in steel-framed bunk beds, and warehouse-sized, air-conditioned white tents where minors attend classes and watch movies.
The children could be seen walking to the dining hall and classes, wearing government-issued cotton T-shirts and gym shorts. Some could be seen playing basketball and soccer, sometimes shouting and laughing.
Program director Leslie Wood said fewer than 70 of the 1,179 children had been separated from families at the border.
A coalition of civil rights and student advocacy groups has sued the Boston Public Schools to find out how much student information the system shares with federal immigration officials.
The groups, including the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, allege in the suit that the school system and Superintendent Tommy Chang have a “disturbing practice” of giving student information to immigration authorities.
The suit stems from the deportation of an East Boston High School student. The suit says evidence used by federal officials in deportation proceedings included a school report about two students who tried unsuccessfully to start a fight.
Chang has in the past said the schools don’t share student information.
A schools spokesman said he could not comment because the system had not been served with the suit.
A 7-year-old boy and his migrant mother who had been separated a month ago have been reunited after she sued in federal court and the Justice Department agreed to release the child.
The two were reunited at about 2:30 a.m. Friday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland, hours after a Justice Department lawyer told a U.S. District Court judge the child would be released.
The mother, Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia, had filed for political asylum after crossing the border with her son, Darwin, following a trek from Guatemala. She said she started crying when the two were reunited and that she’s never going to be away from him again.
Darwin said he was content and happy with the reunion.
The mother and son were to travel to Texas, where they will live while her asylum claim is being decided.
Immigration enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border was plunged deeper into chaos over President Donald Trump’s reversal of a policy separating immigrant children from parents.
A senior Trump administration official says about 500 of the more than 2,300 children separated from their families at the border have been reunited since May. It was unclear how many of the children were still being detained with their families.
The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
In the Texas border city of McAllen, federal prosecutors unexpectedly did not pursue charges against 17 immigrants. One said “there was no prosecution sought” in light of Trump’s executive order ending the practice of separating families.
But the president showed no sign of softening in public remarks.