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Feds detail plan on reuniting over 2,000 separated children in custody

HHS scrambles to reunite families
HHS scrambles to reunite families 02:06

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a joint a "fact sheet" late Saturday saying that 2,053 separated minors were in their custody as of June 20. The two agencies said they are "working with relevant agency partners to foster communications and work towards reuniting every minor and every parent or guardian via well-established reunification processes." 

The fact sheet did not say how long it might take to reunite the families. 

The release said that 522 children, who were in the custody of Customes and Border Protection (CBP), had been reunited with their families. Another 16 children are expected to be reunited with their families on Sunday.

According to the release, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) set up the Port Isabel Process Center in Texas as the "primary family reunification and removal center for adults in their custody." Each ICE office has "Juvenile Coordinators" to manage these cases, HHS said. 

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As part of the effort, ICE officials have posted notices in all its facilities advising detained parents who are trying to find or communicate with their children to call a hotline staffed 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

A parent or guardian trying to determine if a child is in the custody of HHS should contact the Office of Refugee Resettlement National Call Center at 1-800-203-7001, or via email at Information will be collected and sent to HHS funded facility where minor is located. 

The fact sheet states that ICE has implemented an identification mechanism to ensure ongoing tracking of linked family members throughout the detention and removal process; designated detention locations for separated parents and will enhance current processes to ensure communication with children in HHS custody; worked closely with foreign consulates to ensure that travel documents are issued for both the parent and child at time of removal; and coordinated with HHS for the reuniting of the child prior to the parents' departure from the U.S.

The Trump administration enacted a "zero tolerance" policy against undocumented immigrants entering the country in April. Families were first placed in CBP custody before being placed in the custody of HHS, while their parents were detained by ICE. 

Earlier this week, President Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending family separation.     

According to the fact sheet, only 17 percent of the children placed in their facilities were placed there as a part of "zero tolerance." The remaining 83 percent arrived in the U.S. without a parent or guardian, HHS said. 

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