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American Parents Sue The Government Over Family Separation Policy

The administration says it is forging ahead with plans to reunite the parents

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A protester holds a sign outside a closed gate at the Port of Entry facility, June 21, 2018, in Fabens, Texas, where tent shelters are being used to house separated family members
A protester holds a sign outside a closed gate at the Port of Entry facility, June 21, 2018, in Fabens, Texas, where tent shelters are being used to house separated family members, VOA
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Among the parents of more than 2,300 separated migrant children, three Central American parents sued the U.S. government over its policy of family separations Wednesday, the day U.S. President Donald Trump, under intense public pressure, ordered an end to the practice.

But three days later, their situation had not changed and they’re “desperate” for information about the whereabouts and well-being of their children, their lawyer said.

“Our clients are being held in detention facilities with no access to information about their children,” said Jerome Wesevich, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Brownsville, Texas. “The government has some procedures in place for supplying information. So far those have been entirely inadequate.”

The administration says it is forging ahead with plans to reunite the parents with the thousands of children separated since early May when officials announced a “zero tolerance policy” on illegal entry into the United States.

People participate in a protest against recent U.S. immigration policy that separates children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, in front of a Homeland Security facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, June 17, 2018.
People participate in a protest against recent U.S. immigration policy that separates children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, in front of a Homeland Security facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, June 17, 2018. VOA

Some families reunited

Late Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it had reunited about 500 families, saying “all unaccompanied children in their custody” had been reunited with their families.

But the status of many more transferred out of CBP custody remains uncertain. Wesevich said the uncertainty has left the migrant parents in the dark.

“I’d say there is not a lot of optimism,” Wesevich said. “The president’s announcement is not very understandable about what it’s going to mean in practical terms.”

Meanwhile, legal assistance organizations are trying to locate migrant families caught up in the confusion and chaos that followed Trump’s order.

The Texas Civil Rights Project, an advocacy organization based in Austin, Texas, is leading one of the largest reunification efforts in the state, seeking to reunite as many as 381 immigrants who have been separated from their children.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid said it would continue its efforts on behalf of the three Central American parents as it awaits clarity about how the government intends to reunite the separated families.

“The point of our lawsuit (is) that they do it as compassionately and quickly as possible,” Wesevich said. “By compassionate, I mean the parents are provided with information on where their children are, how they’re being cared for.”

Short phone calls

Wesevich said one parent, a father from Guatemala, “does not know where (his daughter) is at all.”

A second parent, a Honduran mother of a 9-year-old son, has told the nonprofit that she believes her son has been moved to New York.

“She does not know where he is, except she believes that he is in New York while she is detained in El Paso, Texas,” according to court papers.

Since their separation, the mother has been allowed to speak with her son three times for about five minutes each time, according to court filings.

“He only asks when we will see each other again and begs to be with me,” the mother is quoted as saying in court documents.

“He is scared and lonely and desperate to be with me. I try to tell him everything will be OK and that I’ll see him soon but, the truth is, I don’t know what will happen with us.”

Immigration attorney Efren Olivares, with the Texas Civil Rights Project, answers a question during a news conference outside the Federal Courthouse, June 22, 2018, in McAllen, Texas.
Immigration attorney Efren Olivares, with the Texas Civil Rights Project, answers a question during a news conference outside the Federal Courthouse, June 22, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. VOA

The third parent, a Guatemalan mother of three sons, ages 2, 6 and 13, has been allowed to speak with them for 10 minutes two times each week.

“Of course her 2-year-old is unable to provide reliable information about his circumstances, and staff provide only general information to [her], nothing specific about her children’s well-being, which causes her anguish,” according to court papers.

The plaintiffs are seeking “frequent and meaningful access to or communication” with their children.

Also read: Donald Trump will soon end the DACA Programme-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Programme for unregistered immigrants

The lawsuit, citing medical experts and court rulings, alleges that “forced separation traumatizes parents and children, and this trauma is compounded when parents and children are denied basic information about each other’s well-being and reunification prospects.” (VOA)

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Lack of Proper Sanitation Affects 620 Million Children Around The World: Report

Despite the improvements, more than a third of the girls in South Asia miss school for one to three days a month during their period.

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A new toilet recently installed in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

A lack of proper school toilets threatens the health, education and safety of at least 620 million children around the world, the charity WaterAid said in a new study published Friday.

Children at 1 in 3 schools lack access to proper toilets, putting them at risk of diarrhea and other infections and forcing some to miss lessons altogether, according to the study, based on data from 101 countries.

Guinea-Bissau in West Africa has the worst school toilets while Ethiopian children fare worst at home, with 93 percent of homes lacking a decent toilet according to the report, released ahead of World Toilet Day on Monday.

toilets, students
Students arrive for class at the Every Nation Academy private school in the city of Makeni in Sierra Leone, April 20, 2012. VOA

“The message here is that water and sanitation affect everything,” WaterAid spokeswoman Anna France-Williams told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “If there’s no toilet in schools, children will miss lessons and it will have an impact on their growing up.”

Diarrhea, infection risk

A lack of proper sanitation puts millions of children around the world in danger of diarrhea, which kills 289,000 children younger than 5 a year, WaterAid said.

But some regions have started to clean up their act, notably South Asia, where access to toilets in schools has improved.

More than half the schools in Bangladesh now have access to decent toilets, while students in 73 percent of schools in India and 76 percent of those in Bhutan can access basic sanitation.

Akramul Islam, director of water, sanitation and hygiene at the Bangladeshi charity BRAC, said the country’s once-high levels of open defecation — using open ground rather than toilets — were now less than 1 percent.

toilets, studentsac
India’s plight in sanitation has not improved much since ages.
Pixabay

“Today, schools have separate toilets for girls and boys and the issue of menstrual hygiene is also being addressed,” he said. “This has happened because of initiatives taken by both the government, the NGOs and other stakeholders.”

Also Read: 3 HIV+ Students Banned From School in Indonesia

Improvement needed

Despite the improvements, more than a third of the girls in South Asia miss school for one to three days a month during their period, WaterAid said, urging greater investment in basic sanitation.

“If we are serious about all children and young people, wherever they are, whatever their gender, physical ability or community background, having their right to clean water and sanitation, we must take decisive and inclusive action now,” said Chief Executive Tim Wainwright. (VOA)