Almost 3,000 kids were separated from their parents as a result of the White House's zero tolerance immigration policy, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar estimated last week.The government has not said how many of them were reunited with their parents, and officials have asked for more time to meet one of the reunification deadlines.
The judge ordered the attorneys to file more thoughts by Monday evening on the timelines and procedures for reuniting those parents who will not rejoin their children Tuesday, and the court will hold another hearing Tuesday morning to discuss the issue further.
The separations sparked national and global outrage that crossed party lines and including warnings from health experts that taking children from their parents would incur significant emotional harm. Some families are only partially reunified; a child may be returned to his mother, for instance, while his father remains in detention.
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".
On June 26, Sabraw set deadlines of Tuesday to reunite children under 5 with their families and July 26 for older children.
Sabraw reportedly urged the government to ease up on the scrutiny applied to parents of separated children, compared to the usual amount applied to extended relatives who apply to look after unaccompanied minors who cross the border illegally. Some parents of the children have already been deported; others are still in criminal custody; others are undergoing background checks. The administration cited difficulties locating dozens of the youngest children's parents, including at least 19 who had already undergone deportation proceedings. Reporters on the ground have reported that there seemed to be no plan to track where different parts of families were being sent so that they could eventually be reunited.
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And if they continue to drag on, what would you ask the judge to do in that instance? One child has still not had either of its parents identified.
Devin O'Malley, a Justice Department spokesman, said the department disagreed with Gee's Monday ruling and continued to review it.
Five have parents still in ICE custody who could be released soon, but require more follow-up after a background check. Fabian said, arguing their hands are tied by logistics.
During a separate hearing on Friday, just after officials filed the paperwork requesting more time for reunification, federal lawyers said that the government had only located parents or guardians for about half of the 101 children in the 5 and under age group.
Among the other remaining question marks is whether authorities can streamline their vetting process for the migrant parents - which ACLU attorneys have described as needlessly cumbersome - and whether the government can pass along the locations migrant families will be released from custody, so that charity groups can more quickly offer them support. 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.