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Feds say they will release, reunite 50 immigrant children

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HHS using DNA testing in order to reunite migrant families 'faster'

The justice department has a deadline to release these children by 10 July.

Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian said officials have now identified 102 children in that age group and would return at least 54 of them to their parents by Tuesday.

The Trump administration said Friday that it may need more time to reunite the immigrant families it separated.

Before the court hearing, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt said that a judge can impose sanctions, usually fines, for failure to meet a deadline but that the organization is not pressing for that at this time.

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.

However, she added, "There are some groups for which the reunification process is more hard". Its database has some information about the children's parents but wasn't created to reunify families under the court's deadline.

In the case of 19 others, the parents have been released and their whereabouts is unknown, government lawyers said.

The government also needed to determine whether the adults had a criminal history or could present a danger to their children, the department said. Sixteen children had not been matched, and it remained unclear if they crossed with their parents, she said.

Sabraw, the judge, noted that the act was intended for a different situation, but also said the government raised an important point. "I'm optimistic that many of these families will be reunited by tomorrow". In a statement, an administration official said its priority was "to ensure the safety of the children in its custody". "There was no reunification plan in place, and families have been separated for months".

Much of the confusion stems from the separate legal tracks children and their parents were set upon after their arrests at the border - while children were placed in the custody of the Health and Human Services department and flown to shelters and foster families across the country, their parents were largely detained by ICE or deported.

In the court filing, the Justice Department sought clarification on whether they have to reunite migrant kids with parents who were already deported and appeared to argue that would be too hard and time consuming.

Children in custody and their parents are also undergoing DNA cheek swabs, which will take about a week to confirm a match, the US said.

Immigrant children under 5 will be returned to their families.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday there were "under 3,000" children separated from their parents. They will need more time to collect DNA samples or other evidence from parents who have been released from government custody. Apprehensions of illegal border crossers slumped in June, as they typically do in the hot summer months, though at more than 42,000, the monthly tally is almost double what it was in June 2017.

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