Trump admin wants more time to reunite migrant children with their families

Pauline Gross
July 8, 2018

The Trump administration said it may need more time to reunite the migrant families it separated at the border because it is still figuring out which kids it took from which parents, according to a court filing ahead of a hearing on Friday.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw in San Diego, Calif., ordered the government to return children under the age of 5 to their parents by next Tuesday.

The administration says federal law requires it to ensure that children are safe and that requires more time.

The government said it is willing to propose an alternative timeline.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two named plaintiffs - a woman referred to as Ms. L. who asked for asylum at a port of entry and a woman who crossed the border illegally - both of whom were separated from their children. Daily Beast reports that "Sabraw initially asked the government to provide her with a list on the status of all the young children and their parents by 5 p.m Saturday" until the dog-sitting intervened.

Trump has spoken out repeatedly against lengthy judicial processes to determine migrants' eligibility for immigration, asylum or deportation, arguing they are a waste of United States resources.

Several hundred have already been reunited with their parents, but the government has struggled to keep up, and it admitted Thursday to using DNA tests to determine parentage.

"This isn't some vast sprawling data set that we're matching up", he said.

But DNA testing would, in theory, speed it up dramatically.

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More than 2,000 children were separated from their parents after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in May that the zero-tolerance policy was in full effect, even if it meant that families were to be separated as a outcome. He said the agency is also attempting to verify that parents do not have a background that make them inappropriate caretakers.

The officials said the records weren't deleted deliberately to hide the family ties, but because the customs agents thought it was more logical to track cases separately rather than as a family unit.

If and when children are released to adults who are now in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, it is not yet clear what will happen to them.

He added that DHS is relocating parents who have children under the age of 5 to facilities that are extremely close to where their kids are being held in HHS custody so the reunions can take place as quickly as possible. CNN first reported that the administration was conducting DNA tests on families in custody, which raised concerns among advocates and lawyers working with migrant families who have been separated.

The court order also includes a deadline to release children aged between five and 17 by 26 July.

Officials also say that they won't be able to confirm a child's parentage by the deadline if DNA testing is inconclusive.

The Congolese woman, identified in court documents as Mrs. L, claimed asylum on November 1, 2017, and four days later was separated from her daughter.

Robert Guadian, a senior official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), called the process "difficult and time consuming" in court documents filed Friday. CNN has previously reported that it's not clear how many migrant families have been reunited since a judge ordered the USA government to halt most family separations at the border.

U.S. Border Patrol agents dispatched parents to criminal courts and then to federal immigration detention, while children were sent to HHS shelters.

Other reports by GizPress

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