Friday, 20 July, 2018

Judge Extends Deadline for Reuniting Migrant Children

Christian from Honduras recounts his separation from his child at the border during a news conference at the Annunciation House,in El Paso Texas Trump admin releases names of children under 5 separated at border
Deanna Wagner | 10 July, 2018, 12:46

A judge on Friday refused to grant the Trump administration a blanket extension of the deadline to reunite children separated from their parents at the border, instead acknowledging that more time may be justified only in specific cases.

The decision came after a government lawyer said around half of the 102 young children could be placed back with their parents by the previously-given deadline of Tuesday.

More than 2,000 children were forcibly separated from their parents at the Mexican border this spring under the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy on illegally entering the country.

Of the 102 children under age 5 who were supposed to be reunited by Tuesday, the government says it should be able to connect at least 54 of them with their parents, Sarah Fabian, the Justice Department lawyer, said in court.

The Justice Department has asked for more time to reunite parents - or to be excused from reuniting those who are deemed unfit parents - but Sabraw did not immediately rule on that request Monday. The ACLU would like a faster reunification process while the US government claims they are bound by strict protocols, such as a plan to DNA test every child and parent before a reunification can occur.

The case includes a broader group of thousands of other children and parents, but the hearing focused largely on the pressing deadline for the children under 5. 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. The government has said only 3 of the children had accompanying adults that were found to not be their parents.

The distance between many children and their parent or parents have been coupled with logistical challenges and resulted in a major bureaucratic snag. Some of the children were brought to the U.S. by someone who is not their biological parent, for example, while others have parents with serious criminal records.

Sabraw had ordered the government to provide a list of the separated children's names to the ACLU over the weekend.

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"This is real progress and I'm optimistic that many of these families will be reunited tomorrow and we'll have a very clear understanding as to who has not been reunited, why not, and a time frame in place", he said.

"Tomorrow there will hopefully be more than 50 babies and toddlers reunited with their parents, and that is obviously an enormous victory", he said. He scheduled another hearing for Tuesday morning.

Additionally, Gelernt took issue with the Trump administration's claim that it has lost track both of parents who have been released by ICE within the US pending their immigration or asylum hearings and at least nine parents who it deported without their children. The administration has been given until July 10 to reunite separated children under 5 years old with their parents.

"There's no question that the parties are meeting and conferring", District Judge Dana Sabraw said.

Some parents of the children have already been deported; others are still in criminal custody; others are undergoing background checks.

Sabraw has also ordered the government to reunite almost 3,000 children five and older with their parents by July 26.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which sued the government over family separations forcing Sabraw's ruling, slammed the government for using a long, drawn-out administrative process that it said "makes no sense".