Demand HHS Cover Transportation Costs for Reuniting Separated Migrant Families
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Under the Trump Administration's "Zero Tolerance" policy, over 2300 migrant children were forcibly separated from their parents, over a period of six weeks in May and June 2018 and sent to over 100 facilities scattered across the U.S.
Though family separations have now reportedly stopped, according to the Trump Administration, the majority of separated children have not yet been reunited with their parents. As of July 1, 2018, The New York Times reported that an estimated 2000 children still remain separated from their parents and housed in government facilities. (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/01/us/migrant-children-families.html)
On June 26, 2018, Judge Dana M. Sabraw, a Federal judge from California (appointed by George W. Bush) "issued a preliminary and nationwide injunction, a fairly rare and drastic measure, telling the government to stop taking migrant children away from their parents 'unless there is a determination that the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child.'
He also ordered the government to return within 30 days all children who had been taken away, and within 14 days if they were under the age of 5." (The Washington Post, https://wapo.st/2z0imfb?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.2efcae9e8667)
However the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), headed by Alex Azar, and the Office of Refuge Resettlement (which is under the oversight of HHS) have publicly stated that they have no system in place to track parents and children who were separated, and they have not released a plan to address when and how family reunifications will take place.
According to Bob Carey, the former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (under President Obama):
"A week later, nothing actionable or concrete is known about the action [plan for family reunification] but there do need to be steps taken to streamline the reunification processes....They are now charging parents for the travel of children who are being reunited. That could be waived. I think it’s also unconscionable that you’re charging a parent to be reunited, when the U.S. government has forcibly separated the parent and child."
It is this last point this petition addresses.
We, the undersigned demand that the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement cover all transportation costs related to reuniting separated migrant children with their parents, and/or transporting these children to other family sponsors in the U.S.
Again, in the words of Bob Carey, former director of the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement, "it's also unconscionable that you're charging a parent to be reunited, when the U.S. Government has forcibly separated the parent and child."
The New York Times published an article on Sunday, July 1, "Sponsors of Migrant Children Face Steep Transport Fees and Red Tape" (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/01/us/migrant-children-families.html) detailing the financial distress this cost places upon parents who have had their children taken from them, and other family members who want to sponsor a child to come and live with them while their parent is held in detention (or has been deported).
Parents and sponsors have been forced by the U.S. Government to pay transportation costs ranging anywhere from $500 to $2500 in order to see their children again. In many cases children must be kept in Federal shelters and detention centers for days or weeks longer than necessary, while family members struggle to gather the money to pay for transportation, so the child can be released.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Government is paying the shelters who contract with them, and average of $600 PER DAY to house a child. Even from a financial standpoint alone, it makes NO SENSE whatsoever for the U.S. Government to charge families to be reunited with their children.
Moreover, we know that every day a child spends separated from his or her family, the trauma of the separation worsens.
Alex Azar, please make the right decision, morally, for the well-being of the children concerned, and even from a financial standpoint, and IMMEDIATELY begin covering all transportation costs to reunite separated children with their parents or other family sponsors.
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