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Government Will Miss Deadline To Reunify Young Children With Parents

10 July 2018

The US government has only managed to reunite two of 102 migrant children under the age of five with their families after they were separated at the southern border, and has admitted it will not be able to meet a federal district judge's deadline for them all to be reunited by Tuesday.

The administration said it needed more time to reunite 101 children under 5 years old to ensure the children's safety and to confirm their parental relationships.

The hearing only covered the roughly 100 children under the age of 5 who were separated from their parents under the administration's "zero tolerance" border prosecution policy.

More than 50 children younger than 5 who were taken from their parents at the U.S. -Mexico border are expected to be reunited with them on Tuesday, lawyers for the federal government told a judge in San Diego on Monday.

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On Friday, the Trump administration had requested more time to fulfill the judge's order, which came in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

Sarah Fabian, a Justice Department lawyer, said that as of this weekend, there were 102 children under five who were still in government custody and separated from their parents.

So far, the court has yet to change the reunification deadlines, which are set for July 10 for children under 5 and July 26 as the deadline for all children separated from their parents. The Justice Department today updated the judge on its progress. Around 80 percent of them are teenagers who tried to make the crossing without their parents, HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 20 that he claimed would end family separation, but weeks later, as many as 3,000 children remained away from their parents.

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Sabraw declined on Friday to grant the government an extension but indicated he might be willing to do so if officials provided the court and the ACLU with a detailed list of the children and status of their reunification. Several parents have already been deported, while authorities disqualified others due to criminal records. "This is real progress and I'm optimistic that many of these families will be reunited tomorrow, and then we'll have a very clear understanding as to who has not been reunited, why not, and what time-frame will be in place".

The other parents have either been deported, failed a criminal background check, were unable to prove they were the parent or had been released and immigration agents had been unable to contact them, said Fabian.

Fabian didn't say why they were being released, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has little space to hold families.

They are among more than 2,300 children split up from their families as a effect of the "zero tolerance" practice that saw their parents prosecuted for illegally crossing the border, even if they did so to seek asylum. 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.

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As the ACLU and the Trump administration work together over the course of Monday and Tuesday to locate and reunite as many families as possible before the court's original Tuesday deadline, Gelernt demanded permission from the court to allow immigrant advocates and faith-based groups to know the location of these reunions.

Government Will Miss Deadline To Reunify Young Children With Parents