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Federal authorities have yet to answer if families separated at border are in NC

People gathered in downtown Raleigh to demand that children separated at the U.S. borders be reunited with their families. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

There aren’t currently any children who were separated from their families at the border being housed in North Carolina that state officials are aware of, but federal authorities have yet to respond to inquiries about it.

The Administration for Children and Families, a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, has not responded to two emails from NC Policy Watch that were sent last week asking about child placement in North Carolina.

Attorney General Josh Stein also sent a letter Monday to the Homeland Security secretary asking for the number of parents and children in North Carolina as a result of the government’s “zero-tolerance” policy, and the facilities at which they are being or expected to be housed.

He has not yet received a response to that request.

Ford Porter, a spokesman for Gov. Roy Cooper said to their knowledge, no separated children are being housed in federal or state detention facilities North Carolina.

“We are working closely with federal partners to ensure we have the most current information,” he added. “Governor Cooper opposes the separation of children from their families and urges the federal government to quickly reunite those who have been separated.”

Several people gathered Friday at the Bicentennial Plaza in downtown Raleigh to call on elected officials to take a stand against family separations. They also delivered a letter to Sen. Thom Tillis’ office demanding the reunification of families at U.S. borders.

The letter is addressed to all members of Congress from the Lawyer Moms for America, a nonpartisan organization.

“We are not fooled by the Executive Order,” it states. “It inexplicably ignores the plight of more than 2,300 migrant children who remain separated from their families. It makes no plan to reunite them with their parents.”

The letter encourages Congress to act immediately to “make sure no more families are ripped apart or held in de facto internment camps.”

“Pass legislation which provides for family unity, safe conditions, and humane treatment for migrant families seeking asylum in accordance with U.S. and international law,” it states. “We will not rest until every single child is reunited with their family.”

Angela Whitenhill, who serves as the mental health initiative manager of the National Benevolent Association, spoke at the downtown rally. She said the debate about family separations was not one about facts and politics and policy.

“This is a matter of what it means to be a righteous nation,” she said.

She added that people must love thy neighbor and stand up for those kids and families who are being sacrificed.

“The babies crying at the border are our babies,” she said. “The families at the border are our families.”

Ernesto Cervantes Trejo, who teaches Catholic confirmation classes to teens at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Sanford, said community support for keeping families together was important.

He also said that his experience working with children has shown that broken homes make a huge impact on their lives.

“What we show them today is what they’re going to use as adults,” he said.

Stein joined 17 states this week taking legal action to protect children by challenging the Trump administration’s policy of forced family separation on the U.S. southern border.

“Like millions of North Carolinians, I watched in horror as the Trump administration stripped thousands of children away from their parents,” he said in a news release.

The states’ lawsuit alleges the administration violated families’ constitutional due process rights by separating them without any finding that the parent poses a threat to the children.

The policy also violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection; it targets only people crossing our southern border, not anyone crossing the northern border or entering the United States elsewhere, according to Stein. The states argue that the policy violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it is arbitrary and capricious and violates U.S. asylum laws by turning people away at ports of entry.

“The President’s executive order does not undo the damage,” Stein said. “The order fails to set forth a plan to reunify families already torn apart by the Trump administration’s family separation policy. Also, the order is contingent on future actions that may or may not occur. Specifically, the order requires Congress to appropriate funding and a federal judge to approve a plan to indefinitely detain children — neither of which may happen.”

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