The Trump Presidency: Migrant children to be reunited with families

Howard TerryJul 13, 2018

Late last month, District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a 14-day deadline to reunite youngsters under five with their parents and a 30-day deadline for older children. During Tuesday afternoon's court hearing, Judge Sabraw stated that he expected administration officials to reunite as many as 63 of the eligible separated children with their parents by the deadline. Our message has been clear all along: Do not risk your own life or the life of your child by attempting to enter the United States illegally. "Apply lawfully and wait your turn". But as Vox's Dara Lind writes, the judge is unlikely to hold the federal government in contempt over a single missed deadline. "These kids have already suffered so much because of this policy, and every extra day apart just adds to that pain", the ACLU's Lee Gelernt said in a statement.

Sabraw is scheduled to hold a court hearing Friday morning in San Diego to decide whether the government did enough.

Rodriguez said the commander running the shelter at Tornillo told him that none of the children there would be housed at Fort Bliss, one of two Texas military bases that the Pentagon has said will likely house thousands of immigrants who have been apprehended at the border.

Eleven of the adults had serious criminal histories, such as kidnapping and murder, said Chris Meekins, chief of staff for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, which is aiding in the reunification effort.

In 22 other cases, adults posed safety concerns, they said. Fabian did not offer a timetable for when the other children would join their parents. One parent was suspected of child abuse; another was living in a household with another adult who had an outstanding warrant for criminal sexual abuse of a minor.

"Let me be clear: HHS could have transferred every child out of our care to a parent who is now in DHS custody today if we did not take into account child safety or whether the adult is actually the parent", Chris Meekins of Health and Human Services Department said in the call.

Nine adults are in custody of U.S. Marshals Service for "other offenses". An update on that case was not immediately available Thursday.

More than 2000 children were separated from their parents by US immigration authorities at the border this spring before US President Donald Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an worldwide outcry. Despite Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar's assurances that the government was on track to meet the dates laid out in the ruling, subsequent court filings showed that the Trump administration was seeking to push the deadline back. That deadline was not met, officials acknowledged, while noting plans were under way on Tuesday to reunite up to 54 migrant children under five with their parents. They say officials recklessly split up families without any idea of how to bring them back together.

The government pays for DNA and screening fees, officials said.

Sabraw agreed that not all 103 children could be reunited and that certain cases are too complicated to complete within his deadlines. Their reasoning: DNA testing is faster than authenticating documents, and protects children - especially the youngest - from being handed to people who may not be their biological parents. "It is the government's intention to have all 3,000 children through that process by July 26".

And activists, for their part, have described a "bureaucratic wall" that has prevented detained parents from finding and contacting their children. While most are "perfectly appropriate sponsors for the children", Meekins said, "sadly, not all are".

The US president has been under intense pressure to reunite almost 3,000 children with their families.

Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy in May, although some separations happened before then. "We demand immediate reunification of these families, an end to the so-called "zero tolerance" policy, and once and for all we must end family detention".

The government is under pressure to reunite the children under a court order issued on June 26.

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