Advocacy groups to hold vigil at federal courthouse

Marking the court-ordered deadline placed on the Trump administration to reunify children separated from their parents, childcare providers and teachers are set to hold a vigil Thursday outside the federal courthouse.

According to a news release from La Union del Pueblo Entero, the local immigration advocacy group better known as LUPE: “Childcare providers and teachers will demand the administration reunite families and end its ‘zero humanity’ and family detention policies.”

The vigil, organized by LUPE and the Fuerza del Valle Workers Center, is scheduled for Thursday morning outside the U.S. federal courthouse in McAllen, where those who entered the country without authorization appeared for their criminal proceedings.

Separations began as a result of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal entry cases.

When announcing the policy in late April, Sessions cited the Department of Homeland Security’s report about spiking illegal border crossings in March of this year, urging prosecutors working along the U.S.-Mexico border to implement the zero-tolerance approach to illegal entry and re-entry cases.

This resulted in U.S. Border Patrol referring all illegal entry and illegal re-entry cases for prosecution at the federal level; before, only individuals with a prior criminal record had been referred for federal prosecution.

As a result, people who had tried entering the country with their children were subsequently separated from their children upon being referred over to the federal courthouse — often without their knowledge.

This then led to hundreds of parents losing contact with their children, creating chaos for public defenders attempting to locate the children for their clients.

The uproar over these separations became national news when those same public defenders raised concerns about the separations, and about the caseload increase due to the uptick of referrals from Border Patrol.

Ultimately, Trump issued an executive order calling for the end of the separations, effectively ending the “zero tolerance” policy.

Weeks later, a federal judge ordered the administration begin the reunification of these children with their parents within 30 days, set for July 26 — today.

In court filings Monday, days before the deadline, the administration said it had reunified or “appropriately discharged” 1,187 of the 2,551 children ages five and older — and 58 of the 103 children under the age of 5.

The administration also said more than 450 parents may have been deported without their children while another 917 parents are considered “not eligible or not known to be eligible,” which includes 463 parents “under review,” plus another 454 parents.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the end of deportations of those families who have been reunited until the issue could be more thoroughly reviewed.

On Tuesday, the administration argued in a 32-page brief, that among other reasons including the expense it would incur and the backlog it would create to stay the removals, that the court just doesn’t have the jurisdiction with regard to removal orders.

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit against the Trump administration over the separations on behalf of parents separated from their children, replied to that argument and filed a lengthy brief asking the court to grant reunited families a seven-day stay. It would give them time to decide whether to seek immigration relief, court filings show.

The vigil is planned for 8:30 a.m. outside the courthouse, with volunteers planning to enter the building shortly afterward, the release states.

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Who: LUPE and Fuerza del Valle Workers Center

What: “Childcare providers and teachers will demand the administration reunite families and end its ‘zero humanity’ and family detention policies,” according to LUPE news release.

When: 8:30 a.m. Thursday, July 26

Where: Bentsen Tower, federal courthouse

1701 U.S. Business 83, McAllen