by Confluence
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Now that we’re all on twitter because of this game, I am making a public service announcement: PLEASE STOP SHARING THAT STORY ABOUT 1500 KIDS MISSING. The outrage I’ve seen is a result of a total misinterpretation and could SERIOUSLY threaten the children you want to save.
Before I get into it, I’ll answer the question 99 million ppl will inevitably ask: I know this because I’m a lawyer, I work on criminal justice issues (sometimes incl immigration), and 4 of my closest friends are immigration attorneys dealing with this EXACT THING.
There are two things going on. 1) HHS doesn’t know where 1500 unaccompanied minors are. 2) we are separating parents and children at the border.
These are different. The kids in 1) were not separated from their parents at the border. They crossed the border alien or arrived here without a parent.
That’s not really the point I want to make though, though it is important.
These kids were dealt with by ORR, the office of refugee resettlement. They were released into the care of people that almost always fit within one of these three categories:
1) immediate family 2) extended family 3) other people that the child has a pre-existing relationship with. If none of those categories apply, then the kids normally stay in a shelter.
(After a number of children were trafficked in 2014, these restrictions got tighter.)
So those kids are released and then they are no longer ORRs responsibility or problem. THIS IS A GOOD THING.
One analogy I heard from my dear friend who I won’t tag without her permission, is that ORR is basically a jailer. Do you want the jail keeping track of where every former inmate is?
Now I have more to say about that but before we do that, let’s talk about the word missing. Basically, by all accounts, HHS did a cursory reach out to check on these kids, and couldn’t find out where they were exactly.
When I say cursory I mean cursory. We’re talking about phone calls. Phone calls!! Like, no door knocks. No checking school records. They called. They didn’t find answers.
There are so many reasons people wouldn’t answer. Maybe these kids are living with someone undocumented. Maybe they aren’t but their sponsor is (legitimately) completely scared of immigration authorities in Trump’s America.
They aren’t missing! They are almost certainly living with family members who almost certainly don’t want to interact with the government and WE SHOULDN’T ASK THEM TO.
ORR’s job is NOT to track and monitor these kids and it shouldn’t be. As my friend said, if there were an issue – abuse, or other wrongdoing – it should go through the appropriate agency: children’s services or what have you. It SHOULDNT GO THROUGH HHS/ORR OR DHS/ICE.
When your school loans provider can’t reach you, are you missing? No. When your boss can’t find you on a Friday night, are you missing? No. They aren’t missing. Some unanswered phone calls does not a missing child make.
Now, I started out identifying two things that were happening. The second – the separation of children and their parents at the border – is goddamn unconscionable and sickening.
But DO NOT confuse the two. The potential for it backfiring is real. What we’re demanding is that ORR, which works hand in hand with ICE, “keep better track” of kids they basically would like to deport if giving the chance. We don’t want that!!!
You’re asking immigration authorities in TRUMPS AMERICA to BETTER MONITOR UNDOCUMENTED CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES. You don’t want this. I promise you don’t.
I get it. It sounds awful. But at WORST it’s benign. At best, it’s a good thing that ORR doesn’t know where these kids are. There’s a reason. We actually now have pretty strict requirements before we release these kids. They aren’t all being trafficked. They aren’t dead.
It doesn’t mean life is easy, but life won’t be easier if ORR starts tracking them. Trust me. And trust my brilliant friends who know about this shit and have warned me and are now warning you. DONT conflate the two things.
AND because some people are obviously taking this as an opportunity to exonerate the president – NO. Trump’s immigration policy is disgusting. His separation of kids and parents at the border is SICKENING. He’s a tyrant. Just don’t conflate them.
Man oh man I forget that at least 50 percent of people on twitter refuse to learn basic reading comprehension. Tonight should be fun!
Also, it says “alien” up there where it should say “alone” cool, autocorrect
okay this blew up so let me say a little bit more to try to clarify some questions I’m seeing.
1) ORR has exclusive jurisdiction over unaccompanied minors (UACs). they are not under ICE’s jurisdiction. ICE may apprehend them but then they are given to ORR.
2) ORR is under Health and Human Services not Department of Homeland Security because the idea was that UACs are a vulnerable population and we don’t want them under ICE’s purview because, as we know, ICE is full of evil people.
3) Traditionally, information given to ORR was NOT shared with ICE. Because authorities realized that these kids would never be able to get a sponsor (90% of the time the sponsor is a family member) if ORR threatened that person with deportation.
But that’s been changing under Trump, as I’m sure no one is surprised to know. And as of May 13th, ICE and ORR are working together officially now. The govt released a Memorandum of Agreement about it. Thanks to my badass friends I have the PDF but can’t find it online. Anyone?
Anyway, what this means is that if a kid is under ORR’s care and needs a sponsor, ICE will now run background checks on that sponsor.
So if you’re undocumented and your aunt is undocumented, she now basically can’t sponsor you because the minute she tries, she’ll be placed in removal proceedings.
So if you’re undocumented and your aunt is undocumented, she now basically can’t sponsor you because the minute she tries, she’ll be placed in removal proceedings. This is another reason you don’t want ORR tracking everyone all the time!!

Also, kids in ORR custody can essentially stay detained indefinitely. NYCLU – including one of my aforementioned amazing friends – has brought some cases about this.

AND I saw a few responses saying that ORR isn’t like jail because the kids aren’t facing deportation/removal. But this is false. Kids come to ORR through ICE. ICE orders them to appear for removal hearings within a few months of them being in ORR custody.

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