At hub for border crossings, families spread throughout US

Akemi Vargas 8 cries as she talks about being separated from her father during an immigration family separation protest

Manuel Martinez, who fled Honduras because gangs were trying to recruit his 12-year-old son, was prepared to be separated from his child after paying a smuggler to cross the Rio Grande by boat and getting arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol.

The release is believed to be the first, large one of its kind since President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that preserved a "zero-tolerance" policy for entering the country illegally but ended the practice of separating immigrant parents and children.

Father and son were reunited on Saturday, after five days apart, and were released into the USA while Martinez pursues asylum.

"I received a call, for example, from an attorney in Denver [Saturday]", Levy said.

The McAllen station, a hub in the busiest USA corridor for illegal crossings, looks much as it did before the administration began enforcing a "zero-tolerance" policy in early May of prosecuting every illegal entry.

The department said in a statement US Customs and Border Protection expects a small number of children separated for reasons other than zero tolerance would remain separated, including if the familial relationship can not be confirmed.

Policies to date have put the onus on parents to track their children down using an HHS hotline, which parents and the lawyers and case workers working with them described as confusing and often ineffective.

"Every day is like this". DHS has not provided a detailed plan for how and when asylum seekers will be reunified.

While Melania Trump sought to demonstrate concern with a surprise visit to migrant children at the border on Thursday, the administration remained under siege amid continued accounts of parents unable to find their children and no system in place for reuniting them.

Washington: More than 500 children separated from family members under the U.S. "zero tolerance" immigration policy have been reunited, administration officials say, after confusion followed President Donald Trump´s sudden backtracking on the practice.

The department also said the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has 2,053 separated minors in HHS-funded facilities "and is working with relevant agency partners to foster communications and work towards reuniting every minor and every parent or guardian via well-established reunification processes".

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On Sunday, the ACLU released a statement condemning the president's tweets.

"We can not allow all of these people to invade our Country", the president wrote.

"We don't see going back to where we came from as an option", Jose Abel Mendez, 28, who traveled from El Salvador with his wife and children, aged 10 months, six and 10, told AFP in the border city of Tijuana. "Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order". The Port Isabel Service Processing Center in Texas has been set up as the staging ground for the families to be reunited prior to deportation.

Since President Trump's order, protests have erupted around the country over the separations and the future of families arriving to the USA illegally.

Critics say this will lead to thousands of children being kept in detention illegally. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a total of about 3,300 beds at three family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania. "They're cages", said California Rep. Jackie Speier. She was not charged criminally and never separated from her children.

The fact sheet doesn't state how long it might take to reunite families.

Abel, a 40-year-old coffee farmer from Jutiapa, Guatemala, asked for asylum at the US border for himself and his 17-year-old son, Hugo.

Exactly how, or when, the released parents might be reunited with their children remains unclear.

Abel said the word is out that families may be separated at the border.

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