10 July, 2018
The government filing appears to contradict a statement by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who said Thursday the US would return immigrant children under five by July 10 to comply with the court order.
The US government has asked for more time to reunite migrant families separated at the US-Mexico border as it emerged that some children's parents have already been deported.
Trump has made fighting immigration - both illegal and legal - a central plank of his US-centered policy agenda, resulting in the "zero tolerance" immigration approach under which undocumented border crossers were being systematically prosecuted, and their children separated from them.
Though Sabraw didn't immediately grant the Trump administration a deadline extension, he scheduled another hearing for Monday and said he would consider an extension if the government could provide a master list of all the children and the statuses of their parents by then.
The DNA test results are being exclusively used to accurately connect parents with children, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Jonathan White said on the call. "The reportedly destroyed records bear directly on the lives of thousands of immigrants seeking entry to our country, threatening the permanent separation of parents from their children".
Additionally, Gelernt took issue with the Trump administration's claim that it has lost track both of parents who have been released by ICE within the USA pending their immigration or asylum hearings and at least nine parents who it deported without their children. He ordered them to reunite kids under age 5 with their parents by Tuesday.
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The filing contained a description of steps undertaken by Health and Human Services to comply with the court order including deploying 115 additional personnel to the field, and contracting with 100 reunification managers who are deploying Friday and Saturday.
Sabraw has also ordered the government to reunite almost 3,000 children five and older with their parents by July 26.
Health and Human Services official Jonathan White filed a declaration explaining the process in place at the department to reunify families, saying that officials are working overtime to manually review the cases of separated families.
Of the 86 parents who have been linked, 46 of them are detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, 19 were deported, 19 were released into the U.S. and their whereabouts are unknown, and two of them were deemed unfit for reunification due to their criminal histories. "The children, some as young as 2 months old, can not possibly give permission for this", she added.
"It may well be that once the plaintiffs know what the reason is and what groups [of parents] it applies to, they'll agree that a more relaxed date can apply to a certain group", Sabraw said at the conclusion of a lengthy conference.
"It's extremely disappointing that the Trump administration looks like it will fail to reunite even half the children under five with their parent", ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told the Associated Press. "At the same time, however, the Government has a strong interest in ensuring that any release of a child from Government custody occurs in a manner that ensures the safety of that child". All three parents in the D.C. lawsuit have spoken with their children, but the Honduran man was only able to speak with his daughter for the first time in almost a month on Tuesday.