The U.S. government is struggling to reunite immigrant families it separated at the border with Mexico and only about half the children under age 5 will be back with their parents by a court-ordered deadline of Tuesday, a government attorney told a judge on Monday.
"It's extremely disappointing that the Trump administration looks like it will fail to reunite even half the children under 5 with their parent", ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement. The ACLU would like a faster reunification process while the USA government claims they are bound by strict protocols, such as a plan to DNA test every child and parent before a reunification can occur.
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.
"I am encouraged by the progress", Judge Sabraw said.
"ICE will assume custody and then release the parent and child together", she said.
"The judge made it very clear he wasn't going to allow the Trump administration to drag its feet on reunifying these children with their parents", Gelernt said.
And activists, for their part, have described a "bureaucratic wall" that has prevented detained parents from finding and contacting their children.
Six of the 102 children on the list will not be reunited with the adult with whom they entered the country ― three of them based on the parent's criminal record and three because they were determined not to be related, Fabian said.
After the Justice Department asked for a blanket extension, Sabraw ordered the government to turn over a list of the minor children under 5 years old to the ACLU, which it did over the weekend.
While all parties are aware the deadline will not be met, Judge Dana Sabraw is happy with the progress being made, saying from the bench, "This is real progress".
Six of the 102 children are not eligible for reunification because they have a parent with a criminal history or were separated from someone who is not their parent.
In the meantime, many of these children have had to face their immigration proceedings without their parents in court.
The 54 children set for reunification on Tuesday, along with five others awaiting final approval, will join their parents in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody and then be released as a family, said Fabian, the government attorney.
Monday's hearing set the stage for a dramatic day of reunifications on Tuesday across the country, though they are likely to occur largely outside public view.
For the more than 50 children who the government says will be reunited tomorrow, what are you expecting that moment to be like for those kids and those parents? The administration has been given until July 10 to reunite separated children under 5 years old with their parents. She said Monday that they may have been incorrectly marked as deported.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which sued the government over family separations forcing Sabraw's ruling, slammed the government for using a long, drawn-out administrative process that it said "makes no sense".
Gelernt, the ACLU lawyer, said in court that the government had taken "significant steps" to reunite families but should be moving more quickly.