Trump administration to ask for more time to reunite immigrant families
Jul 11 2018
"Let me be clear: HHS could have transferred every child out of our care to a parent who is now in DHS custody today if we did not take into account child safety or whether the adult is actually the parent", HHS Chief of Staff Chris Meekins, told reporters. Today's secretive reunification operation will be overseen by the Department of Homeland Security and will involve transporting the children hundreds of miles across the country to undisclosed locations.
Yeni Gonzalez, a Guatemalan mother who was separated from her three children at the US-Mexico border, at a news conference in July in NY.
"There's no question that the parties are meeting and conferring", she said.
"I would permit DNA testing when necessary, when there is a legitimate good faith concern about parentage or legitimate concern the government will not meet the reunification deadline", Sabraw said.
He ordered both sides back in court on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) to give another update and for him rule on differences over protocols to follow when reuniting the remaining children. The ACLU would like a faster reunification process while the US government claims they are bound by strict protocols, such as a plan to DNA test every child and parent before a reunification can occur.
The Justice Department said more than 50 children under age 5 could be back in the arms of their parents by the deadline at the end of the day.
Sabraw said on Monday he was "very encouraged with the progress" made so far, but declined to issue a blanket extension to the administration, instead asking for a detailed list of reasons for each case in which the government had failed to reunite a young child with his or her family.
The lead-up to the Monday court appointment indicated the duress the Trump administration is now under in trying to swiftly reunite the families it has separated - and just how messy the situation has gotten.
On 26 June, federal judge Dana Sabraw granted a preliminary injunction requiring the reunification of children under the age of five by 10 July. One child has still not had either of its parents identified.
Now the family detention system is at capacity - as are a network of about 100 shelters for migrant minors who traveled into the USA without parents or a guardian and who now wait anywhere from a few weeks to years to have their cases resolved in the immigration courts. The administration cited difficulties locating dozens of the youngest children's parents, including at least 19 who had already undergone deportation proceedings. "They will not remain in ICE custody".
In this June 25 photo, a mother migrating from Honduras holds her 1-year-old child while surrendering to U.S. Border Patrol agents after illegally crossing the border, near McAllen, Texas.
In court filings, the ACLU has said the government is asking for needless provisions for reuniting families that would not happen if the families had not been separated in the first place.
Abril Valdez of the ACLU of MI said the government was "vague" on the time and place of the reunifications that could come on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) for two Honduran men he represents. Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit, said activists have turned up as many as 10 more names that need to added to the number of separated kids still in detention. Of that group, they said, 34 parents had undergone and passed criminal background checks and DNA verification.
'If we find out they are not the legal parent, then clearly we are not going to reunite them, ' Meekins said. There is still one child that the government has no parental information on.