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Judge says USA must reunite migrant families or face penalties

11 July 2018
Judge says USA must reunite migrant families or face penalties

More than 2,000 children were separated from their parents by USA immigration authorities at the border this spring before Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an worldwide outcry.

About 40 other very young children will not be returned to their parents yet, despite a court-imposed deadline, because the Trump administration either has not finished matching them with their parents or has not cleared the parents to take custody.

The ACLU said late Sunday the administration provided it with a list of 102 children under 5 years old and that "appears likely that less than half will be reunited" by Tuesday's deadline.

Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian said at one point in the conference that one of the separated children was not eligible for release because, in the course of a previous fingerprint background check, someone in the child's parent's household was found to have a history of sexual abuse.

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.

Some parents now ineligible for reunification could be eligible later, including one in ICE custody who is being treated for a communicable disease and 10 in criminal custody with either the U.S. Marshals Service or state or county law enforcement.

Both sides agreed to submit a document Monday night stating their disagreements on protocol; Court will reconvene on Tuesday to determine the process for reuniting the remaining children.

I think what the hearing on Friday and today revealed is what a lot of people suspected, that there really wasn't a proper tracking system for these families and the government is now pulling information from a variety of sources and that's one of the reasons why the reunifications are taking so long.

The reunions are expected to be carried out in secret or secure locations, with parents taken from the detention centers where they have been held and children brought from federal shelters or foster homes.

"They're working nights and weekends to comply with the judge's orders".

Numerous separated children are fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met with diplomats from those countries in Guatemala on Tuesday to discuss U.S. immigration policies.

"Our process may not be as quick as some would like, but there is no question it is protecting children", said Chris Meekins, a Health and Human Services Department official helping to direct the process. And for several weeks, administration officials have been under a court-ordered deadline: Reunite those young children with their parents, and do it quickly. Fabian said another 12 have parents in state or federal prison.

Here's a look at some of the situations that families might face even after being reunited. If the parent is actually in criminal custody now, reunification can not occur. Fabian said, arguing their hands are tied by logistics. "We just don't know how much effort the government's made to find" the parents.

"Let me put it this way: I think the government in the last 48 hours ... has taken significant steps", Gelernt said.