Government Won’t Reunite All Under-5 Children With Parents Before Tuesday Deadline

Christian from Honduras recounts his separation from his child at the border during a news conference at the Annunciation House,in El Paso Texas

Christian from Honduras recounts his separation from his child at the border during a news conference at the Annunciation House,in El Paso Texas

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.

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. Others are still going through the backgrounding process to ensure they are the children's parents and fit to take custody of them.

As for most of the rest of the under-5 children who have yet to reunited with their families, Fabian said that their parents have already been released into the US, have been deported, or are behind bars on criminal charges. Government officials had to work overtime to determine which children it took from which parents, and as of last week, they were unsure of the exact number that needed to be reunited. Others have left the country or were released, Fabian said.

The hearing followed a feverish weekend of talks between the administration and the ACLU after the judge refused on Friday to grant a blanket extension to the deadline, saying instead that he would only consider certain exceptions.

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

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores had no comment on the discrepancies in the numbers.

In particularly, he said, parents who've already been released into the US and disappeared could be found. Two children have already been reunited with their parents, lawyers said.

Officials said they were still working to locate the parents of numerous children, some of whom have been deported. It said Monday that it plans to demand that the court set a deadline for reunifying parents with their kids within 48 hours of making contact if the parents are within the US and within one week if the parents have already been deported. While parents were prosecuted, children were placed in the custody of the Health and Human Services Department in facilities dotted across the country. Attorneys for the children and the Department of Justice are working with the court to reunite the remaining children - many of their parents have been deported or released from custody in the United States - as quickly as possible. As the ACLU argued in Friday's court hearing, those steps were originally designed for vetting a non-parent sponsor taking custody of a child who immigrated to the USA alone, not for reuniting children with their own parents.

The ACLU sued in March on behalf of a Congolese woman who was separated from her daughter for five months after seeking asylum at a San Diego border crossing and a Brazilian asylum-seeker who was separated from her son after an arrest for illegal entry in August near the Texas-New Mexico border.

"There's no question that the parties are meeting and conferring", she said.

Sabraw had ordered the July 10 deadline in response to a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.

"I believe that they can still reunite some [more] individuals by tomorrow", Gelernt said during the hearing.

Gelernt said the youngsters "have already suffered so much because of this policy, and every extra day apart just adds to that pain".

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