Government Won’t Reunite All Under-5 Children With Parents Before Tuesday Deadline

Trump admin releases names of children under 5 separated at border

It was the first time the government indicated whether the parents and children would be released or detained together. But that number was in flux Tuesday morning, with the process proceeding more slowly than anticipated.

Late last month, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a 14-day deadline to reunite children under 5 with their parents and a 30-day deadline for older children.

Federal officials told reporters Tuesday that immigrant parents being reunited with their children are instead being outfitted with ankle monitors and released from custody.

Despite these efforts, there's a chance the government's list of young children awaiting reunion may actually grow before authorities can reduce it further.

Many parents have already been moved to detention facilities near their children in preparation, Fabian added.

The plan for Tuesday was unusual not only for its secrecy, but for its oversight: The Department of Homeland Security is not typically involved directly in family reunifications. Lawyers said the fathers were too distraught to speak to the news media.

The operation comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which last month won a preliminary injunction ordering speedy reunification of migrant families separated under the "zero-tolerance" policy on border enforcement that was put into place in May. An additional 20 children have purported parents with whom they can not be reunited because those adults have already been either removed from the United States or released into the country, which removes DHS and HHS's ability to force them to come get the children they claim are theirs.

"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.

Amid enormous backlash and global outcry, Trump reversed course on 20 June and said families should remain together until the parents' immigration proceedings are complete, a process that can take months.

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This sort of carelessness raises major questions ahead of an even more significant deadline than Tuesday's: Sabraw had also ordered the government to reunite all of the almost 3,000 children it took from parents by July 26. Officials said they expected to reunite another 54 children on Tuesday. The others are not eligible to be reunited because their parents have criminal records, haven't been verified or have been otherwise ruled unfit. Fabian said, arguing their hands are tied by logistics.

"The judge has promised to stay on top of it", Gelernt said outside court. Government agencies failed to track either group in a way that would allow for the children to be easily returned to the parents once the parents were released.

"We have laws. We have borders".

The children have been housed in shelters from California to NY, licensed by the Health and Human Services Department. "They certainly haven't reunited all the kids and parents who are noncriminals and don't fall out of the class". The government has limited family-style detention space. Once the children are handed over to their custody, ICE will release the families together.

She noted that the issues at stake had been part of the Flores settlement - which deals with how the government can keep children in custody - for more than two decades.

Notwithstanding any releases that may happen Tuesday, "it's clear that this administration continues to be committed to detaining families, which is inhumane", said Mercedes Núñez Roldán, a program manager at Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project in Los Angeles, which represents families in deportation proceedings.

The judge additionally asked for an update from the government on the reunification process by Thursday, Bloomberg reported.

Gelernt said the government had up until now not agreed to alter its "cumbersome, lengthy" reunification process, which authorities say is necessary to ensure that children are not turned over to traffickers or other bad actors.

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