U.S. will reunite and release over 50 immigrant children

Fewer than half of child reunions will meet Tuesday's deadline ACLU says

It was the largest single effort to date to undo the effects of President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance policy of separating families who try to slip across the Mexican border into the U.S.

The government has until 3 p.m. PDT (2200 GMT) on Thursday to explain to U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego how many children still must be reunited with their parents and to inform him if it met Tuesday's deadline for reuniting children under five.

A spokesperson for the agency said it could not provide more details about what indication there is that this child and parent may be USA citizens, how the child came to be in federal custody or where the child is now sheltered.

Thousands of babies, toddlers and older children were separated from their parents at the border this spring before Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an worldwide outcry over the images of youngsters in chain-link cages and audio recordings of children crying.

He similarly said the government should limit its use of DNA tests to reunite parents and children, following the ACLU's argument that the government was using the tests to delay family reunifications.

"That is going to be a significant undertaking", Sabraw said on Tuesday of the next deadline.

During the June 27th ruling, the Judge stated that "Measures were not in place to provide for communication between governmental agencies responsible for detaining parents and those responsible for housing children, or to provide for ready communication between separated parents and children".

The administration faces a second, bigger deadline - July 26 - to reunite more than 2,000 older children with their families. Under Sabraw's order last month, the rest of the minors will need to be returned to their families by July 26. The ACLU claims that the government initially provided incomplete information about the children. A longtime court settlement says children who cross the border illegally can not be detained for more than 20 days.

Six of the 102 children are not eligible for reunification because they have a parent with a criminal history or were separated from someone who is not their parent. One child has still not had either of its parents identified.


DOJ lawyers said in a court filing that the government has tried for twelve months to locate the parents, to no avail.

The operation of facilities, like the one at Tornillo, "is a necessary and prudent step to ensure that the Border Patrol can continue its vital national security mission to prevent illegal migration, trafficking, and protect the borders of the United States", said Darcie Johnston, Director at the office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, in a letter to Texas State Sen.

"They will be assessed for reunification after they are released from criminal custody, provided that Defendants are made aware of that release", lawyers added.

In some cases, he said, "If we had just reunited kids with the adults, we would be putting them in the care of a rapist, a kidnapper, a child abuser, and someone who was charged with murder in their home nation". Sixteen had undergone and passed background checks but had not completed DNA verification.

"I'm happy to finally be able to be with my child".

"It's extremely disappointing that the Trump administration looks like it will fail to reunite even half the children under 5 with their parent", said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.

Sabraw, an appointee of Republican President George W Bush, said on Monday (Tuesday NZT) that he was "very encouraged" by the efforts to reunite families by his deadline, calling it "real progress". The court would reconvene on Friday to establish whether administration officials had carried out that order.

It's unclear what will happen to families detained at the border moving forward.

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