Parents and relatives of migrant children separated at the US-Mexico border are being forced to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars to be reunited.
Relatives have paid nearly $2,000 per child to cover transportation after separated children were sent to facilities around the country.
The payments are to cover one-way airfares for the child, and a return flight for the escort.
Sponsors covering transportation isn't a new policy, but it has been halted in the past and is now being applied to parents whose children were taken away under the "zero tolerance" policy.
Relatives of migrant children who were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border are being forced to cover huge airfare costs in order to be reunited.
Over several weeks, the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy saw more than 2,300 migrant children removed from the care of their detained parents and sent to centers around the country.
But for a migrant child to leave one of these facilities, parents and other relatives are required to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to cover the one-way plane ticket and a return ticket for an adult escort, according to report from The New York Times.
Marlon Parada, a construction worker in California, was told by authorities his cousin's 14 year-old-daughter, who was separated from her mother at the border, couldn't travel by bus and instead he had to pay the $1,800 airfares from Houston to Los Angeles.
“They notified me a day before her release,” Parada told The Times. “I had no choice.”
A Salvadoran mother who was separated from her 7-year-old son told The Times she had to pay $576.20 for him to fly from Miami to Virginia. When she met her son at the airport, she had to hand the cash payment to the escort.
The Times report also describes a Guatemalan immigrant paying $2,500 to fly two teenage relatives from Texas to New York, a California man paying $1,400 to get his 11-year-old nephew from Texas to Los Angeles, and a Salvadoran woman originally being asked to pay $4,000 to fly her 12-year-old nice, 10-year-old nephew and an escort from Texas to California before she convinced the shelter she couldn't afford the payment. It is not clear if these children were separated from their parents.
While paying for transportation for migrant children being held by the government isn't new, in the past these children would have been largely unaccompanied and likely trying to reach a parent in the US.
But the recent separation of migrant families has meant parents are often still being held in detention. It is now falling to relatives, many who earn just a few hundred dollars a week, to use their savings or rely on donations to be able to have the children released into their custody.
According to The Times, the payment requirement was waived under the Obama administration when large numbers of families began arriving in 2016.
Aside from airfares, The Times also reported that all family members who will live in the home of a migrant child are also being forced to provide fingerprints to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).