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Confusion at Border on Trump Reversal  06/22 06:10

   McALLEN, Texas (AP) -- Immigration enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border was 
plunged deeper into chaos over President Donald Trump's reversal of a policy 
separating immigrant children from parents, causing uncertainty for both 
migrant families and the federal agencies in charge of prosecuting and 
detaining them.

   A senior Trump administration official said that about 500 of the more than 
2,300 children separated from their families at the border have been reunited 
since May. It was unclear how many of the children were still being detained 
with their families.

   Federal agencies were working to set up a centralized reunification process 
for the remaining separated children and their families at a detention center 
just over the border in Texas, said the official, who was not authorized to 
speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

   There were also signs that the administration was dialing back its 
"zero-tolerance" policy, for now.

   The federal public defender's office for the region that covers cases from 
El Paso to San Antonio said Thursday the U.S. Attorney's Office would be 
dismissing cases in which parents were charged with illegally entering or 
re-entering the country and were subsequently separated from their children.

   "Going forward, they will no longer bring criminal charges against a parent 
or parents entering the United States if they have their child with them," 
wrote Maureen Scott Franco, the federal public defender for the Western 
District of Texas, in an email shown to the AP.

   In the Texas border city of McAllen, federal prosecutors unexpectedly did 
not pursue charges against 17 immigrants. A federal prosecutor said "there was 
no prosecution sought" in light of Trump's executive order ending the practice 
of separating families.

   But the president showed no sign of softening in public remarks, even as 
Congress failed again to pass immigration reform.

   Immigrants like Ever Castillo and Diva Funes were among those affected by 
the mixed signals from the U.S.

   The couple from Comayagua, Honduras, arrived at the border Thursday and 
presented themselves for asylum with their five children, ages 1 to 12 years. 
Castillo said they did not know about the family separation policy when they 
began hitchhiking to the U.S. two weeks ago.

   He said Border Patrol agents told them they would be separated if they 
entered the U.S., and they opted to walk back across the international bridge 
into Reynosa, Mexico. Rather than be separated from his children, "I said, 
'better that we head back to my country,'" said Castillo.

   A 7-year-old boy and his migrant mother separated a month ago were reunited 
Friday after she sued in federal court and the Justice Department agreed to 
release the child.

   The two were reunited at about 2:30 a.m. at Baltimore-Washington 
International Airport in Maryland, hours after a Justice Department lawyer told 
a U.S. District Court judge the child would be released.

   The mother, Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia, had filed for political 
asylum after crossing the border with her son, Darwin, following a trek from 
Guatemala. She said she started crying when the two were reunited and that 
she's never going to be away from him again.

   Other immigrants who remained locked up and separated from their families 
struggled to stay in touch with children who are in many cases hundreds of 
miles apart.

   A 31-year-old Brazilian man held in Cibola County Correctional Center in 
Milan, New Mexico, said he didn't know when he would see his 9-year-old son 

   The father told the AP in a phone interview Thursday that he spoke to his 
son once by phone since they were separated 26 days before. The man, who is 
seeking asylum, spoke on condition of anonymity because he said in Brazil he is 
sought by a criminal gang for failure to pay an $8,000 debt, and fears 

   The man said he worried about his son, who only speaks Portuguese. "He 
cried. He was so sad," the father said. "I had promised him it would only be 
three to five days."

   Thursday's uncertainty resulted from the abrupt ending of a White House 
policy that separated more than 2,300 children from their parents over the past 
several weeks --- part of the administration's zero-tolerance immigration 
policy that was a signature campaign promise of Trump.

   After Trump's executive order, a host of unanswered questions remained, 
including what will happen to the children already separated from their parents 
and where the government will house all the newly detained migrants in an 
already overcrowded system.

   The administration began drawing up plans to house as many as 20,000 
migrants on U.S. military bases, though officials gave differing accounts as to 
whether those beds would be for children or for entire families. The Justice 
Department also went to court in an attempt to overturn a decades-old 
settlement that limits to 20 days the amount of time migrant children can be 
locked up with their families.

   "We have to be very, very strong on the border. If we don't do it, you will 
be inundated with people and you really won't have a country," Trump said.

   The Trump administration previously had not said whether any of the more 
2,300 children separated from their families had been reunited. The senior 
Trump administration official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity 
said many of the 500 children already reunited were back with their families 
within days of being separated. But other parents have said they didn't know 
where their children were.

   Meanwhile, the mayors of about 20 U.S. cities gathered at a holding facility 
for immigrant children in the border city of El Paso. They accused Trump of 
failing to address a crisis of his own making and called for the immediate 
reunification of immigrant children with their families.

   In Washington, the House killed a hard-right immigration bill Thursday and 
Republican leaders delayed a planned vote on a compromise GOP package, with 
party members fiercely divided on the issue. Democrats oppose both measures.

   The rejected bill would have curbed legal immigration and bolstered border 
security but would not have granted a pathway to citizenship to "Dreamers" who 
arrived in the country illegally as children.

   The delayed vote was on a compromise bill between GOP moderates and 
conservatives that would offer Dreamers a pathway to citizenship and provide 
$25 billion for Trump's border wall, among other things.

   First lady Melania Trump made a surprise visit to a McAllen detention center 
housing some of the children. She told the children to "be kind and nice to 
each other."

   She made waves while boarding the flight to McAllen in a green 
military-style jacket with the message "I really don't care, do u?" on the back.


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