Federal judge declines to ease deadlines for government to reunite separated families

Posted July 10, 2018

Necessary steps in resolving the fate of thousands of children being held captive by the USA will be delayed at least another couple of days because a government attorney has dog-sitting responsibilities out of state and can't attend a weekend court status conference.

The government turned over a list of all 102 children under the age of 5 to the ACLU as part of an ongoing court case. "But I need more information".

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to be reunited with their parents, with many separated from their families under the Trump administration's recently rescinded "zero tolerance" family separation policy.

The Trump administration confirmed on Monday that it will not meet the deadline set by a federal judge for reuniting parents with their young children. "Many of the key witnesses will likely be moved in the coming days and weeks with no assurances as to their well-being or whereabouts, and continued chaos is inevitable", their motion says.

Immigration officials said they've relocated 23 parents to facilities that are closer to the HHS shelters where their children are staying. 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.

The American Civil Liberties Union received the list of the names of the almost 100 children under the age of 5 who were separated from their parents at the border, according to a group spokesman. "They need to give the child back".

He said that the reunification needed to occur within the next 14 days.

"It just doesn't make sense", he said. "You've taken a child from the parent". Its database has some information about the children's parents but was not created to reunify families by the court's deadline. Last month, the president issued an executive order halting the practice after it drew outrage from elected officials from both sides of the aisle as well as from the general public.

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However, she added, "There are some groups for which the reunification process is more hard". There will be some outstanding cases including children whose parents are wanted for felonies in their homeland.

"The Government does not wish to unnecessarily delay reunifications or burden class members", the Justice Department filing reads.

Gelernt, the ACLU lawyer, questioned the need for DNA testing and suggested that it should be used exclusively for the objective of reunification and then should be expunged. The mothers have since been reunited with their children. "The government is saying DNA every single person". As for the rest, she claimed, three were brought by someone who is not their biological parent, three have parents with serious criminal records that bar reunification, five have parents with something on their record that requires further investigation, 12 have parents either in local or federal criminal detention who must serve time before being transferred to ICE, 18 have parents who were lost by the administration after their deportation or release into the USA, and four have been approved for release to a non-parent sponsor. Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, told reporters on Thursday that under 3,000 children in total were separated by the government, though he couldn't specify the exact number.

The ORR program "was not created to track the circumstances" behind a child's arrival in the U.S., Azar said, and the Department of Homeland Security didn't tell the refugee agency which children were taken from parents and which came over the border unaccompanied.

Parents already released into the USA should be reunited with their children within 48 hours of the government contacting them, or within a week for parents already deported, he suggested. There are reports that some migrants agreed to be quickly deported, believing it would speed up the recovery of their children - only to board a plane and realize that their child would be left behind.

Susan Church, a Boston immigration lawyer, said the government could release migrants who are seeking asylum on bond so that they can find their children faster. He called it an "unprecedented situation in connecting parents and children".

Faced with a barrage of criticism, Trump signed an executive order to halt the family separations, but made no specific provisions for those already split apart. He also ordered the government to provide for communications between detained caregivers and their children and not to deport adults without their kids.

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