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U.S. to reunite migrant children, parents at Texas detention center

By Allen Cone
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U.S. to reunite migrant children, parents at Texas detention center
Protesters gather at a detention facility in El Paso, Texas, Thursday. The Department of Homeland Security announced over the weekend plans to unite migrant families at a Texas detention center. Photo by Larry W. Smith/EPA-EFE

June 25 (UPI) -- Federal agencies announced plans over the weekend to reunite migrant children with their parents in a detention center in Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has "dedicated the Port Isabel Service Processing Center as the primary family reunification and removal center for adults in their custody." The center is near Brownsville.

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"The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families," the DHS said in "Fact Sheet: Zero-Tolerance Prosecution and Family Reunification."

The agencies announced they "have a process established to ensure that family members know the location of their children and have regular communication after separation to ensure that those adults who are subject to removal are reunited with their children for the purposes of removal."

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The agency said it has a "well-coordinated" process with Health and Human Services. It said "illegal adults, adults and children" are initially detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection -- which is part of HHS -- before children are sent to HHS' Office of Refugee Reunification and parents to ICE.

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"Each entity plays a role in reunification," according to the Homeland fact sheet.

The HHS' Office of Refugee Settlement said more than 2,000 minors were being cared for in HHS-run facilities as of mid-last week, and it is "working with relevant agency partners to foster communications and work towards reuniting every minor and every parent or guardian via well-established reunification processes."

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The federal agency said 522 children have been reunited and 16 were delayed because of weather problems Friday.

ICE said it has implemented an identification mechanism for ongoing tracking of linked family members throughout the detention and removal process.

The agencies noted a small number of children who were separated for reasons other than zero tolerance will remain separated.

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"Generally only if the familial relationship cannot be confirmed, we believe the adult is a threat to the safety of the child, or the adult is a criminal alien," the statement said.

And some children were still at a Border Patrol station when their parent returned from court proceedings "because of the speed in which adults completed their criminal proceedings."

In these cases, the USBP reunited the family and transferred them together to ICE custody as a family unit.

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Minors in HHS-funded facilities are allowed to call family members and/or sponsors living in the United States and abroad.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump reversed his administration's policy for separating children from their parent or adult after they crossed the border illegally.

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