Judge rejects blanket delay to reunite separated children

HHS Secy Pushes Back on Reports of Mass Confusion in Reuniting Migrant Families

Necessary steps in resolving the fate of thousands of children being held captive by the US will be delayed at least another couple of days because a government attorney has dog-sitting responsibilities out of state and can't attend a weekend court status conference.

He said the ACLU instead wanted a detailed explanation of when all families will be reunited.

At the Monday morning hearing, which reporters could listen to by phone, Judge Sabraw asked attorney Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is representing the thousands of separated families, if he believes the Trump administration is doing everything it can to comply with the June 26 court order demanding swift reunification.

The Trump administration asked a judge on Friday to grant more time to reunite families separated at the southern border under its "zero-tolerance" push to prosecute every person who enters the country illegally.

Christian, from Honduras, recounted his separation from his child at the border during a news conference, June 25, at the Annunciation House, in El Paso, Texas.

In about a dozen cases, the government was still trying to match a parent to a child.

Immigration officials said they've relocated 23 parents to facilities that are closer to the HHS shelters where their children are staying. Releasing a child without a careful review could "expose him or her to trafficking or abuse", he said. Sixteen children had not been matched, and it remained unclear if they crossed with their parents, she said.

Children under 5 were supposed to be reunited by Tuesday, while children ages 5 to 17 must be reunited by July 26.

He said that he was pleased with the efforts being made to reunite families, even if it proves impossible for some to be done by the deadline, suggesting it is unlikely the government will be accused of violating the court order.

Before the US reunites a child with a parent, a painstaking process called a "safety and suitability analysis" is conducted to determine whether a parent is fit or doesn't pose a danger to the child, Jonathan White, deputy director for children's programs at the department's Office of Refugee Resettlement, said in a court filing. Those children range in age from 2 to 13 - meaning the youngest, a 2-year-old boy, should be on his way to his mother by early next week.

Amid an global outcry, Donald Trump reversed course on 20 June and said families should remain together. In a statement, an administration official said its priority was "to ensure the safety of the children in its custody". He called it an "unprecedented situation in connecting parents and children".

As many as 3,000 children remain separated from their parents, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Sabraw, the federal judge in California, had ordered that federal officials provide detained immigrant parents with a way to contact their kids by Friday.

Susan Church, a Boston immigration lawyer, said the government could release migrants who are seeking asylum on bond so that they can find their children faster.

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