The Trump administration reported Monday that, of the 102 children under age 5 in U.S. custody after being separated from their parents at the border, around 60 would be reunited with their parents by Tuesday’s court-ordered deadline. Two children had already been reunited, four others are set to be handed off to nonparent sponsors, and 54 to 59 more of these children were due to be reunited with at least one parent by the deadline.
In a status conference Monday in the case of Ms. L v. ICE, which resulted in an injunction demanding the Trump administration reunite most families that have been separated at the border under the since-rescinded policy, the Department of Justice ran through the numbers of children in the “tender age” bracket it had provided the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing these families.
But the government is asserting that some parents are not in a position to be reunited with their children because, for example, the parents are in criminal custody or fall outside of the class action group because of a serious criminal conviction. Further, 18 parents have been deported to their home countries or released into the U.S., making it more difficult for the government to locate them. The ACLU has offered to assist the location procedure in these cases.
The Tuesday deadline, set by U.S. district judge Dana Sabraw, originally drew protestations from the Department of Justice, which asked for more time to track down the parents no longer in custody. On Friday, Sabraw denied the request for a blanket extension but said he would consider case-by-case exemptions.
“This is real progress. I’m optimistic that many of these families will be reunited tomorrow,” Judge Sabraw said on Monday.
The deadline for older children to be reunited with their parents is July 26.
While the Trump administration has scrambled in recent days to reunify families, it has come under criticism for running into a bureaucratic morass of its own making, having never properly created a plan for reunification.
According to the Associated Press, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said recently that there were “under 3,000” children separated from their parents in total.