Separated migrant parents sue US officials for more communication with kids

Three Central American parents are suing US immigration officials for more communication with their children who were separated from them after they crossed the US-Mexico border illegally.

In a court filing Thursday, lawyers for the three parents alleged that immigration authorities are not ensuring ample communication between the parents and their young children.

The children mentioned in the lawsuit are among the less than 3,000 children estimated to have been separated from their parents. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar released the new estimate on Thursday during a call with reporters nearly two weeks after HHS provided an exact figure of 2,053 children in their care.

The Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid lawyers detailed some of the “various hurdles in arranging communications” for the parents and their children in the joint status report, filed as part of an ongoing lawsuit brought in DC federal court against top Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services officials.

One plaintiff, a Honduran citizen, only spoke to his 12-year-old daughter on Tuesday — a month after the pair was separated, the legal aid lawyers claim.

“Not only are Plaintiffs being forcibly separated from their children without any legitimate reason, they are unable to communicate with their children on a sufficiently frequent basis,” the legal aid attorneys wrote.

Attorneys for the parents also said parents have had difficulties reaching their assigned case managers because of “logistical issues,” including telephones at detention facilities that “have been unavailable or in disrepair” and the time-off schedule of the case managers that includes holidays and weekends.

The three Central American plaintiffs have not learned any information about reunification plans, conditions, or dates from their case managers, their attorneys said, asking the court to order immigration authorities to provide “detailed information” regarding the plans, including anticipated dates.

The attorneys asked a judge to order the government to arrange at least four telephone calls per week between the groups.

In their half of the status report, lawyers for the government said that Homeland Security and Health and Human Services leaders are “ensuring that there is coordination between the children’s facilities and the facilities where Plaintiffs are held to better facilitate these phone calls,” and agreed to help set up calls between the parents and their case managers.

The government attorneys also wrote that they had agreed to arrange for a clinician to visit with the plaintiffs’ children and to communicate to them additional medical information.

The spike in family separation numbers at the border were a result of the Trump administration’s policy to detain and criminally prosecute any individual who crosses the US-Mexico border illegally. The administration is now working to comply with a court order deadline to reunite the families who have already been separated from their children. The order also mandates that officials provide parents contact with their children by phone within 10 days, if the parent is not already in contact with his or her child.

Officials have not released an exact number of how many children remain in government custody and have declined answering how many families have been reunited.