Half of Small Children, Migrant Families Reunited

Posted July 14, 2018

Officials say 57 of the 103 children separated at the US-Mexico border were returned to parents as of Thursday.

Sabraw made clear during a court hearing Tuesday that his deadlines were firm, and he raised the possibility of punishment for the government if those children were not reunited by the deadline "or within the immediate proximity" of it. It should be transparent and easy to do.

The additional 46 were found to be ineligible by a court or the administration due to a broad range of factors.

The reunification resolves a court order in the case of Ms. L. v. ICE, a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of illegal immigrant parents who had been separated from their children at the border.

The government noted that things will proceed differently for these reunions from the ones for the children under age 5, because of previous rulings in the ongoing lawsuit over family separations at the border and lessons learned from the earlier reunions, which numbered fewer than 60.

The government said that brief delays were because it was still completing its screening process, which government officials have noted detected some individuals who were not the parents or were not eligible for reunification. They said they had to conduct DNA tests on all parents and children to ensure that they were indeed related, and had to conduct background checks on parents to ensure that children weren't being handed over to criminals.

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Seven other adults were determined to not be a parent.

"Throughout the reunification process, our goal has been the well-being of the children and returning them to a safe environment", said the heads of the three departments collaborating on compliance - Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

HHS is facing a court-mandated deadline of July 26 to reunite those children with their parents.

The government has cited logistical issues in getting some of them back together (one being that some parents were already deported).

Earlier this week, Sabraw called HHS' full procedures "backwards" for this situation, and said that "the parent has a right to be reunified". They are expected to appear in immigration court.

The government said "under 3,000" children were removed from their parents while the policy was in effect. The judge said he would decide the issue Monday, when another hearing is scheduled in the case.

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Trump's hardline immigration policy refers all apprehended undocumented adults for criminal prosecution - a break with past administrations who limited criminal referral for most adults who illegally cross into the US with their juvenile family members.

The government maintained in the filing that it is complying with the judge's orders.

"Our work to reunite the second group of families ... continues", added Albence, saying the process will be completed "as safely and as efficiently as we did with the first group". A Honduran man strangled himself after officials took his son, and Republicans and Democrats alike criticized the policy.

Although the new filing details the latest reunification numbers of children younger than 5, it did not provide a total of how many kids older than 5 the government believes to be in custody.

The Trump administration faces a second deadline on July 26. They were set up to deal with children who cross the border illegally without family.

That included 11 who had criminal records - either charges or convictions - seven who were not the parent but could have been a different relative, one who had a false birth certificate, another accused of child abuse, another who wanted to live in a home with an adult with a criminal history, 12 who were already deported, 11 who are now in state or federal criminal custody, one who cannot be found and one with a contagious disease.

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But detaining families together sets up the possibility of future separations, because a federal consent decree says the government can not detain children in such facilities for more than 20 days.