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Red Tape Delayed Reunion of Mother, Child Seeking Refuge in MA

The Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policy, which has separated families, has stoked protests throughout the nation. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
The Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policy, which has separated families, has stoked protests throughout the nation. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
July 9, 2018

BOSTON – While the Justice Department asks for more time to reunite children and parents separated at the southern U.S. border, it was red tape and bureaucracy that delayed reuniting a 31-year-old Guatemalan mother and her 8-year-old daughter seeking refugee status in Massachusetts.

It took 55 days to reunite Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia with her daughter on Thursday at Logan International Airport in Boston.

Attorney Susan Church says it took "a herculean effort" to reunite them.

"The hope is always the fact that so many people joined together to help this one family, and I suspect similar group efforts are happening around the country,” Church states. “It's just absolutely infuriating that it takes such extensive use of resources to reunite a mother with her child."

Meanwhile, officials are scrambling to pair children with parents.

The Trump administration maintains the court mandate for reuniting all children under age five with their parents by July 10 – and all other children by July 26 – isn't enough time to verify and vet each parent.

But according to Church, the delay in the Gonzalez-Garcia case was due to the government's inefficient fingerprint verification process.

Gonzalez-Garcia and her daughter were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, and sent to different parts of the country.

Church says authorities kept putting off appointments to verify the mother's and daughter's fingerprints.

"The delay is being caused by these fingerprints that the Office of Refugee Resettlement requires the parents to take before their children are returned,” Church points out. “However, all the parents have had their fingerprints taken already at the border."

In Congress, Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who worked to help reunite the family, described the reunion as "heart-wrenching," and said, "We know there are just under 3,000 more like her who are still waiting."

Linda Barr, Public News Service - MA