The U.S government is reportedly forcing migrant parents separated from their children at the border to pay for transportation and other costs if they wish for their families to be reunited, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a new court filing Thursday.
The organization, which is representing migrant families in a class action suit against the Trump administration, said a parent was told to wire $1,900 to Western Union to cover the cost of transportation for their child. This is consistent with reporting from the New York Times, which found that some migrant parents were asked to pay between $570 and $1,800 to cover the cost of airfare for their children.
The government also reportedly asked four migrant women to pay for DNA tests that could prove they were in fact the mothers of detained children if they wanted to be reunited with them.
The ACLU argued that because the Trump administration forcibly separated the families after the implementation of its zero-tolerance immigration policy, migrant parents shouldn't have to be burdened with financial costs. "It is not acceptable for Defendants to make compliance with this Court's injunction contingent on Class Members paying thousands of dollars to reunify with their children," lawyers wrote in the the filing.
Migrant children have been scattered across the country and because the Trump administration still has no clear plan for reunification, it's likely some families might never be together again. As of Thursday night, two days after the Trump administration missed a court-imposed deadline to reunite migrant children under the age of 5 with their families, 58 of the 103 kids were back with their parents. The government has until July 26 to reunite the thousands of migrant children in its custody with their families.
The process of reuniting with their kids is already an uphill battle for many migrant parents. For example, a Guatemalan mother was forced to travel 3,000 miles from Arizona to New York in order to reunite with her daughter and was only able to do so because volunteers helped her travel via car for a period of five days. The costs imposed by the Trump administration only exacerbates the difficulty of their situation.
Families Belong Together, the coalition working to help migrant families that organized the nationwide immigration protests last month, is currently fundraising to help parents pay the reunification costs. The campaign reads: "This money will be immediately used for family reunification travel expenses, including transportation, lodging, and a small personal kit to help families get started. It will also help Spanish speaking immigration experts acting as volunteers who are traveling to ensure that all families are supported and reunified."