The Trump administration is reportedly gouging the families of undocumented children to have their children brought back to them.
On Monday, the New York Times reported that families of children separated from their parents at the border are being charged exorbitant fees in order to be brought back together in the wake of President Trump’s executive order formally ending his previous policy of ripping families apart.
In one case, a Salvadoran woman was told she had to pay approximately $4,000 in order to have her niece and nephew, who were 12 years old and 10 years old, respectively, in order for them to be flown with an escort from a shelter in South Texas to California. A nonprofit eventually helped the woman be reunited with her family after she convinced officials she couldn’t pay the cost.
Oscar Garcia of Anaheim, California was apparently forced to empty out his entire savings account in order to pay for flying his 11-year-old nephew to California from Texas after crossing the Mexico/U.S. border from El Salvador.
“I didn’t want to leave him stuck there,” Garcia told the Times.
These hefty costs are proving to be a significant barrier to family reunification in spite of President Trump’s executive order. Latest counts show that despite more than 500 children reportedly being reunited with their families, there could still be approximately 1,800 minors still separated from their parents awaiting reunification in government shelters. And Trump’s order did not specifically lay out a policy for bringing families back together.
Although the Office of Refugee Resettlement typically says that families are responsible for the cost of transportation for both a child and an escort to be reunited with their families, requiring parents and sponsors to personally pay for having their children brought back to them is exclusive to the Trump administration.
According to the Times, the Obama administration waived the costs associated with family reunification when a wave of migrant families crossed the border in 2016, under the philosophy that it was harmful to keep children in government custody. During that time, shelter operators were instructed to pay transportation costs, and to submit expense reports to the government in order to be reimbursed.
The news of families being charged for reunification comes after a weekend of public protests across the nation demanding the government reunite immigrant children with their parents. The #FamiliesBelongTogether protests even got as close to Trump as downtown Bedminster, New Jersey, which was roughly four miles away from the Trump National Golf Club, where the president stayed for the weekend.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.