Donald Trump on Thursday put an end to his family separation policy, but attorneys are concerned the practice will continue, as they struggle to reunite parents and children without any mechanism in place to do so.
“If you look at the language of the executive order it provides wiggle room for the administration,” said Jeremy McKinney, an immigration attorney in South Carolina.
McKinney said he was “not confident at all” that family separations were coming to an end because the language of the executive order includes provisions that families can stay together, depending on government resources, and that they can be separated if the government decides families are in danger.
“We’ve seen this administration make numerous allegations of smuggling at people,” McKinney said. “We’ve all heard the president mention this himself, about people using children as a passport to the US. These types of allegations could be used to break up families.”
Separately, he was concerned that the executive order did not include a plan to reunite families. “All of us are currently living in the chaos of the current situation when you’ve got approximately 2,300 children who were separated from their parents” said McKinney, the national treasurer of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
He noted that the government’s plan so far for reuniting families has been providing detained parents with a one-page document instructing adults to contact a phone number or email for help in finding their child.
McKinney said detention facilities have different rules about phone access. “Imagine if you’re in a tent city, imagine if you are in some temporary ad hoc central that was created within days, what kind of access you are going to have there?” he said.