Migrant children forced to wait in vans overnight to be reunited with families: Report

Migrant children forced to wait in vans overnight to be reunited with families: Report
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Over 30 migrant children were left in a van overnight in 2018 while waiting to be reunited with their families, according to NBC News.

NBC News reported the children arrived to the Port Isabel Detention Center on Sunday, July 15, 2018.

Later that day, Andrew Carter, the regional director of BCFS Health and Human Services, the government contractor and nonprofit charged with transporting the migrant children, said in an email to company president and CEO Kevin Dinnin that 37 children had been waiting for eight hours without any of them being processed for reunification with their parents, according to NBC.

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"The children were initially taken into the facility, but were then returned to the van as the facility was still working on paperwork," Carter said in the emails, according to NBC. "The children were brought back in later in the evening, but returned to the vans because it was too cold in the facility and they were still not ready to be processed in."

The emails prompted a series of communications between Health and Human Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials (ICE), according to NBC, citing a BCFS official and a former HHS official.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “was clearly not ready to deal with the separations and did not take steps necessary to ensure a speedy reunification with their parents," the official told NBC. "Had DHS acted differently, the process would have been much smoother and the impact on the kids would have been much less."

ICE officers clocked out for the day on schedule despite HHS assurances that the children would be arriving, according to NBC, and no one was present to meet the vans when they arrived. BCFS was forced to call in additional vans to provide the children with room to sleep, according to the news outlet.

The first child was reunified 11 hours after arrival, but the final child was not reunified with their family until 5:50 a.m. that Tuesday, according to the report. An ICE spokesperson told NBC the incident was “unusual” and that “since then, no child has spent more than a few hours waiting to be reunited with their parents."

DHS and HHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Hill.