Trump administration to ask for more time to reunite immigrant families

Pauline Gross
July 10, 2018

Roughly half of the children under 5 years old who were separated from their parents at the border will be back with their moms and dads by a court-imposed deadline Tuesday, but the Trump administration is still not sure when the rest will be reunified.

The infant is one of hundreds of children who have yet to be reunited with their parents, with many separated from their families under the Trump administration's recently rescinded "zero tolerance" family separation policy.

"I am very encouraged about the progress", Sabraw said during a hearing in U.S. District Court in San Diego.

On June 26, Sabraw set deadlines of Tuesday to reunite children under 5 with their families and July 26 for older children.

As daunting as the process appeared in court, this week's deadline concerns less than 5 percent of the children separated from their parents in recent months. "We just don't know how much effort the government's made to find" the parents.

Ms. Fabian said even more than the 54 could be released depending on whether Judge Sabraw orders the government to short-circuit its usual checks it makes before releasing children to sponsors in the U.S.

In preparation for the reunions, many detained parents have been transferred to ICE facilities closer to the HHS facilities where their children have been held post-separation.

In the meantime, many of these children have had to face their immigration proceedings without their parents in court.

A person familiar with the reunification plan said managers at the sites where younger children are being housed have been instructed that they are to put the children in vans on Tuesday and take them to locations that are as yet unknown to them.

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At the hearing in San Diego, Judge Dana Sabraw gave the authorities extra time to determine which children will be back with their parents, as government lawyer Sarah Fabian said 54 of the youngsters could be returned to their parents by the Tuesday deadline, the United States media reports said. There are less than 3,000 undocumented immigrant children now in federal custody. Meanwhile, some separated children have been entered into an Obama-era foster care system, where temporary guardians described them as "shell-shocked".

After the Justice Department asked for a blanket extension, Sabraw ordered the government to turn over a list of the minor children under 5 years old to the ACLU, which it did over the weekend. One child has still not had either of its parents identified.

A lawyer for the ACLU, Lee Gelernt, said 12 parents had been deported, according to the organization's research.

A number of children can not be released to their parents, either because the parents were released from custody into the United States or deported or because the parents are serving criminal sentences. Government officials had to work overtime to determine which children it took from which parents, and as of last week, they were unsure of the exact number that needed to be reunited.

On Friday, the Trump administration had requested more time to fulfill the judge's order, which came in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

Because ICE has not yet built detention centers suitable to hold young children, Fabian told the court on Monday, the reunited families will be set free on supervised released while they pursue their asylum claims.

Judge Sabraw said that that information should be shareable with trusted groups under the protective order he had already approved.

Gelernt said the government had up until now not agreed to alter its "cumbersome, lengthy" reunification process, which authorities say is necessary to ensure that children are not turned over to traffickers or other bad actors.

Other reports by GizPress

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