Sixteen unaccompanied Latino children separated from their families as part of the border patrol’s zero tolerance policy were scheduled to be reunited with their parents Sunday.
The children will join 522 other children who have been reunited with their families, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The 16 were scheduled to be reunited Friday, but weather affected travel, and officials said Saturday night that the children were to be reunited with their families “within the next 24 hours.”
There remain “a small number of children who were separated for reasons other than zero tolerance that will remain separated,” according to the press release from Homeland Security.
Officials say they are trying to confirm the familial relationships of these children, who will remain in custody if their families cannot be confirmed, or if Homeland believes the adult is a threat to the safety of the child, or the adult is a criminal alien.
As of Wednesday, U.S. Health and Human Services had 2,053 separated minors being cared for in HHS-funded facilities. Only 17 percent of those minors were placed there as a result of zero tolerance enforcement, and the remaining 83 percent arrived in the U.S. without a parent or guardian, according to Homeland.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has designated the Port Isabel Service Processing Center near Los Fresnos, Texas, as the primary family reunification and removal center for adults in its custody.
A parent who is ordered removed from the U.S. may request that his or her minor child accompany them. In the past, some parents have chosen to be deported without their children, according to ICE.
Homeland and HHS have a process established that lets family members know the location of children to which they are related. After being separated, they can have regular communication to ensure that adults subject to removal are reunited with their children for removal.
“The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families,” the release says.
Children separated from their families are sent to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement. Parents are placed in custody of ICE officials.
“Each entity plays a role in reunification,” according to the press release. “This process is well coordinated.”
The ICE website allows persons to locate a retainee over the age of 18 in the custody of ICE. One can search by the person’s alien registration number and country of birth, or by name, country of birth and complete birthday.
In addition, parents or guardians attempting to determine whether their child is in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement can contact the ORR National Call Center on its website, by phone at 800-203-7001, or via email at information@ORRNCC.com. Information will be collected and sent to the HHS funded-facility where the minor is located.