The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and Department of Justice have made public the government’s plan for the court-ordered reunification of children ages 5 years and older who were separated from their parents by immigration authorities.
The plan is intended to educate the public about the detailed interdepartmental reunification plan presented to the court, and does not represent new policy, according to HHS.
Here is a summary (read the complete plan here):
* HHS, DHS, and DOJ are working rapidly to reunify children and their parents who are class members under the orders by District Judge Dana Sabraw of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
* Following successful reunification of eligible children under 5 with parents in the United States as of July 12 (Stage I), the three departments are working to reunify all eligible children over the age of 5 by July 26 (Stage II).
* The two stages together include all eligible parents who are or were in DHS custody, and all eligible children in HHS custody, who may have been separated at the border.
* Both stages include children and parents who were separated at the border by DHS to allow for the parents’ prosecution under the Zero Tolerance policy, as well as children and parents separated at the border for other reasons.
* The key steps in the tri-department plan for reunifying a parent and child in government custody include:
* HHS reviews a summary of the DHS-performed criminal background check on the adult.
* HHS reviews its case file to make a determination of parentage or to identify red flags of possible non-parentage or trafficking.
* HHS reviews its case file to make a determination of fitness and safety or to identify red flags that the adult is unfit or poses a danger to the child.
* Absent red flags, HHS conducts an in-person interview of any adult in DHS custody at a DHS reunification location.
* Absent red flags, HHS moves the child to the reunification location, where the child is turned over to DHS custody and reunification is completed by DHS.
* In cases where red flags have been raised, HHS engages in further inquiry as appropriate. HHS will not reunify absent a determination of parentage, fitness, and safety.
* For parents who have been separated from children who are no longer physically in ICE custody, HHS will coordinate with the parents directly.
The departments expect to modify the current plan as appropriate based on operational considerations and any new instructions from the court.