For Morgan Weibel, an immigration attorney and the executive director of the San Francisco branch of the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center, which advocates for immigrant women and girls fleeing violence, last week was, in a word, “insane.”
Slightly less insane, she clarifies, than the week prior—which she spent shuttling between the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas, and the respite centers set up for detained immigrants in the nearby city of McAllen to provide legal assistance as the Trump administration was scrambling to reunite families separated by its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy earlier this year. Some 2,500 children were separated from their parents or guardians as a result of this policy, which called for the prosecution of all individuals entering the United States illegally. In June, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw gave the administration 30 days to reunite children with their parents, with a deadline of July 26. “I don't think I've ever eaten so little, slept so little, and worked so long before,” Weibel says.
Just before the deadline passed, at 6 p.m. last Thursday, I talked to Weibel about how the legal process of family reunification works and the treacherous road ahead for families who have already been reunited. (Twenty minutes after six that night, the Associated Press reported that more than 1,800 children had been reunited with their parents or sponsors, but that some 700 were still separated.) The conversation that follows has been edited for clarity and length.