One of the five children resettled in South Carolina after being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border has been reunited with a family member after a federal judge's reunification order.
The five children, ages 7 to 11, were brought to the Palmetto State by Lutheran Services Carolinas, a Christian relief organization authorized by the federal government to provide transitional care.
All have made contact with their parents, the group said. Four still reside in the state's foster care system.
Rebecca Gibson, who coordinates the Christian relief program, told The Post and Courier on Tuesday the organization's first priority is to make sure the children are safe and healthy. The next step is to put them in touch with their parents.
"As soon as a child arrives, we focus on that," Gibson said.
On June 26, federal Judge Dana M. Sabraw in California ordered a halt to most family separations at the United States border and the reunification of families.
The court order specifically requires:
- Parents cannot be detained separately from their children. Only if a parent is determined to be unfit will children be detained separately.
- Children under the age of 5 must be reunited with their parents within 14 days (from June 26).
- Children over the age of 5 must be reunited with their parents within 30 days (from June 26).
- Parents must make contact with their children by phone within 10 days (from June 26), if the parent was not already in contact with his or her child.
Trump administration officials have struggled to respond to Sabraw's order while Department of Homeland Security officials have repeatedly insisted on legislative action as an appropriate recourse, The Washington Post reported.
Over six weeks in April and May, almost 2,000 children were separated from their parents under the zero-tolerance policy announced by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution.
The process moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Images of children being held at border facilities in cages and warmed with foil blankets, along with an audio recording of a young child pleading for his "Papa," sparked public outcry nationwide, and President Donald Trump signed an order last month to end the policy.
On June 22, The Associated Press reported that about 500 of the then-2,300 detained children had been reunited with their families.
Trump pitched a comprehensive immigration bill, which would have granted funding for a border wall while addressing family separation and offered young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
It failed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a 301–121 vote. Lawmakers then left for a 10-day Fourth of July recess.
The children that fell into the care of organizations like Lutheran Services Carolinas are among the luckiest, Gibson has said.
For five days a week, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., they receive educational and therapy services and go on field trips. On nights and weekends, they are with their foster families.