18:32 GMT01 December 2020
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    Carlos Castaneda, an attorney who specializes in immigration law, told Political Misfits Friday that years after the end of the “zero tolerance” border policy causing migrant children to be separated from their parents, most of the family reunions have been the work of grassroots groups, not the US Department of Justice.

    A new report shows more than 600 migrant children taken from their families at the US’ southern border have still not been located, a finding that highlights the dangerous immigration policies of US President Donald Trump and his administration.

    “The separation occurred as of two to three years ago and has still not been resolved,” Castaneda told show hosts Michelle Witte and Bob Schlehuber.

    The US Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a court document in October, calling the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their families between 2017 and 2018 “horrific.”

    "It is critical to find out as much as possible about who was responsible for this horrific practice while not losing sight of the fact that hundreds of families have still not been found and remain separated," Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, told NBC News at the time. "There is so much more work to be done to find these families.

    According to NBC, the ACLU discovered that more than 1,000 parents were separated from their children just in 2017 under a pilot program for the Trump administration’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy, based on data provided by the Department of Homeland Security. However, only a fraction of those children have been reunited with their families.

    “The groundwork effort by such organizations has been really a godsend for many families … We’ve seen [a] lack of concern by the Justice Department when it comes to reuniting these families,” Castaneda told Sputnik.

    “This is by far not the only instance of a Trump administration policy that has negatively affected minors,” Castaneda added.

    “Earlier this year, with the coronavirus pandemic becoming a greater concern, what the Trump administration did, and this is very sneaky on their part, is that they used a CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] order … to essentially override different immigration laws that are in place regarding asylum, regarding the required treatment of minors who are without their parents, in order to essentially ignore these laws that have been bothersome for them in the first place and using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to ignore it,” he explained.

    “And that is why in the case of children, for instance, many of them who would otherwise be subjected to laws that would benefit them in terms of treatment and in terms of their ability to seek a legal remedy in the US … they were probably deported and unable to access those same legal protections,” Castaneda continued.

    According to the advocacy group First Focus on Children, the Trump administration has used COVID-19 to justify denying unaccompanied minors and immigrant families the opportunity to plead for asylum. In addition, since the start of the pandemic, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has refused to house migrant children in ORR facilities due to so-called public health concerns.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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