Trump Administration Will Miss Deadline to Reunite All Migrant Children Under 5

Larry Hoffman
July 11, 2018

For almost one month Perez knew nothing about her children - "the longest, most torturous time of my life", she said.

Householder reported from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

A parallel effort is underway to deport some of the migrants: 11 reunified families will be returned to their home country, Guatemala, on Tuesday, the country's vice minister of foreign relations said at a news conference.

HHS admitted it had resorted to DNA testing on some of the children to try to match them with their parents.

It was the first time the government indicated whether the parents and children would be released or detained together.

On Tuesday, Sabraw showed little appetite for giving more time to the government unless it could show good reasons in specific cases.

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 court order requires all 3,000 children to be returned to their families before the end of the month.

Abril Valdez of the ACLU of MI said the government was "vague" on the time and place of the reunifications that could come on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) for two Honduran men he represents.

The 54 children are scattered around the country, and the operation calls for the children to be driven to nearby locations in different states, where they will be handed over to Homeland Security officials.

Many parents have already been moved to detention facilities near their children in preparation, Fabian added. The family reunification order doesn't guarantee it either. Those contractors, however, do not appear to be actively involved in the reunifications planned for this week.

The government has tapped two faith-based organizations to support families during and after the reunions.

The practice of separating families has been part of the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy, which refers anyone detained at the border for prosecution, including those seeking asylum in the United States. An additional 20 children have purported parents with whom they can not be reunited because those adults have already been either removed from the United States or released into the country, which removes DHS and HHS's ability to force them to come get the children they claim are theirs. The Trump administration was working on final background checks for another five children ahead of Tuesday's (Wednesday NZT) deadline.

Fabian told the court that nine parents of children who are younger than 5 have been deported, making immediate reunification hard. If those parents were able to prove a familial bond with their child using a birth certificate or official documentation, they argued, there should be no hold-up in the reunification process.

"The judge has promised to stay on top of it", Gelernt said outside court. For children, the trauma of being separated from their parents will be long-lasting.

At least 2,000, according to estimates issued last month by the Department of Health and Human Services, which shelters immigrant minors under federal law.

"If we find out they are not the legal parent, then clearly we are not going to reunite them", Meekins said. The government has limited family-style detention space.

Disagreements arise when it comes to the protocols to be followed in more complicated reunification cases. A Honduran boy would remain with a foster family while the father remained in custody, although Krause said it was not clear to her why. That thwarted a government plan to detain children with their families while criminal proceedings were pending. Lawyers for the plaintiffs are likely to ask the judge to streamline the time-consuming bureaucratic process required for reuniting additional families.

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