Billboards pushing for migrant family reunifications as deadline nears

‘Children belong with families, not in jails,’ billboard says

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MCALLEN, Texas – Less than 24 hours is left for the federal government to reunite migrant children who were separated from their parents due to the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy.

On June 26, federal judge Dana Sabraw imposed a series of deadlines for the administration, giving the government a month to reunite hundreds of children with their families.

Less than a week after the ruling, national nonprofit organization American Civil Liberties Union posted four billboards -- two in English and two in Spanish -- directed toward the U.S. Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas.

“Border Patrol: Children belong with families, not in jails,” the billboards say.

One of the billboards stands near an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center, while another is the less than a mile away from a Border Patrol office and across the street from the McAllen International Airport.

Following the reunification of eligible children under the age of 5 with parents earlier this month, the departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Justice said the agencies are now working to reunite the children over the age of 5 with their parents by the deadline.

The ACLU has been vocal on its social media pages, calling the family separations “cruel and inhumane policies.”

For Delia Lopez, however, she often passes by the billboard and has a different perspective than the message that can be seen for miles.

“As far as the kids being in jail, I don’t think they are being in jail. They are probably being fed better than they’ve been fed before,” Lopez said. “(The parents) are sad and everything but are getting their children right, they are getting a free ticket, here to stay (and) they are never going back.”

Ana Maria Reyes, who lives near the billboard, said families come to the United States for a better life and cross many obstacles to get into the country.

“Uno viene buscando oportunidades con su familia pasando muchas cosas para que te quiten tus hijos,” Reyes said.

Reyes said she relates to the parents’ fear of being separated from their children as she, too, is worried about her son being deported. She doesn’t want her to go back to Mexico and become a statistic of violence.

“No quiero que mi hijo sea una estadística mas en México,” Reyes said.

According to the ACLU’s website, the Trump administration said Monday it has reunited or “appropriately discharged” 1,187 of the 2,551 children ages 5 and older who were separated from their parents.

“The government has also reunited 58 out of 103 children who are under the age of five and whose reunions were required by the first deadline, July 10,” the ACLU said on its website.

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