GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Bethany Christian Services announced Thursday, July 26, that nearly 90 percent of the refugee children who were placed in its care, after they were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border within the past year, have been reunited.
This includes nearly all children who were separated under the “zero-tolerance” policy. Dona Abbott, director of refugee services at Bethany Christian, said the organization's lack of media availability in the weeks prior allowed their staff to focus on reuniting children safely with their parents.
“As we have maintained, we believe the forced separation of asylum-seeking parents and their children is unconscionable,” said Chris Palusky, President and CEO of Bethany Christian Services. “We will continue to use every resource at our disposal to ensure the safe and timely reunification of parents and their children.
"We are gratified that nine out of every 10 children in Bethany’s care have been reunified with parents, but will not rest until we have met the needs of all of the children in our care.”
Bethany will continue to work with the remaining children separated before and during “zero tolerance” whose reunification with their parents have been delayed.
"One of the challenges is that the new executive order requires everyone in a family to turn over their fingerprints to ICE," Abbott said. The measure forces some to decide between caring for their child and being deported. Abbott said Bethany has no connection or contract with ICE.
Some reasons for reunification delays are concerns for the health and safety of the children and special requests from the parents. Moving forward, Abbott said there should be no reason to put families seeking asylum in detention centers.
"We should never be locking up children and their families. Our country can do so much better than that," Abbott said.
Bethany has provided care and support for refugees for more than 40 years and successfully reunites 100's of displaced children each year.
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