Only 364 of more than 2,500 children back with parents with court-set deadline of 26 July for families to be reunited
A total of 364 of the more than 2,500 children separated from their parents in a US-Mexico border crackdown on illegal immigration have been reunited, officials disclosed in court late on Thursday, days before a reunification deadline.
The government has six more days to comply with the reunification order by the US district judge Dana Sabraw, who summoned the government attorneys to appear in his San Diego courtroom on Friday to account for progress.
Lawyers for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement had reported in a court filing late on Thursday that less than a fifth of the families with children aged five and older had been reunited since Sabraws order was issued more than three weeks ago.
It was unclear from the status report, filed as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging parent-child separations at the border, exactly how many more reunifications were likely before the 26 July deadline.
Nearly 850 parents have been interviewed and cleared for reunification so far but another 229 parents have been deemed ineligible because of criminal records, or because they waived reunification or for other reasons, the report said. The rest are pending review.
The report also said more than 700 parents in question have final deportation orders, although Sabraw has barred the expulsion of those parents until at least a week after they regain their children so they have adequate time for legal counsel on their families best options.
Children were seized from their parents by US officials at the border as part of a broader zero-tolerance crackdown on illegal immigration by the administration of Donald Trump, sparking an international outcry. The president ordered the practice stopped on 20 June.
Sabraw has used recent hearings to contest procedures that the government attorneys have said are meant to safeguard children in its custody, such as criminal checks of parents and DNA tests to ensure family relations.
The government blamed those measures for missing a 10 July deadline to reunite children aged under five, although the administration said they have now all since been returned to their parents.
The judge has accused the government of either acting in defiance of his order or lacking the resources to fix the mess it created.
Sabraw said at a hearing on Monday he was reassured that the government was finally putting the emphasis on reuniting families over lengthy procedures aimed at combating human trafficking that the judge said did not apply.
He may press the government about comments on Thursday by the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, suggesting she might differ on the emphasis placed on speedy reunifications, saying we will not cut corners.
Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us