Trump administration officials said Thursday they had reunited all eligible migrant children younger than 5 years old with their families, two days after a court-imposed deadline to rejoin the infants and toddlers with their parents who were detained for illegally crossing the border.
Late last month, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a 14-day deadline to reunite children under five with their parents and a 30-day deadline for older children. Our agencies' careful vetting procedures helped prevent the reunification of children with an alleged murderer, an adult convicted of child cruelty, and adults determined not to be the parent of the child.
Officials have said they have taken steps including the testing of DNA to prove family relationships, and reviewing whether the parents would be suitable caregivers.
Two weeks have passed since President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end his administration's policy of separating undocumented immigrant children and parents, but chaos still reigns at the border and across the country as family reunification has hit roadblocks.
On Tuesday, Sabraw showed little appetite for giving more time to the government unless it could show good reasons in specific cases.
"These are firm deadlines, not aspirational goals". He alleged that the parents only wanted all along for their kid to stay in the USA, and that is why they agreed to leave without them.
In Tuesday's filing, administration lawyers stated that a remaining 27 children were not eligible for reunification with a parent and were therefore not subject to the court-mandated reunification deadline.
Speaking to reporters just before his flight to Europe for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit, Trump blamed his administration's failure to meet the court's deadline on the detained families themselves, saying the "solution" to the crisis he created is "don't come to our country illegally".
Government attorneys told a San Diego judge slightly over half of the children 54 of 102 represented by the ACLU and in Department of Health and Human Services custody will be reunited with their parents in ICE custody.
As of Thursday morning, 57 children under the age of five had been reunited with their parents, the Trump administration said in a statement.
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A total of 22 children were ruled ineligible due to safety concerns posed by the adults in question.
Sabraw has asked the ACLU to propose penalties in the event he finds the deadline was missed.
Government officials touted the screening process for parents, including background checks and DNA tests.
One child has not been matched with a parent, Fabian said. On June 27, she finally made contact with her children and has been given weekly visitation rights.
In El Paso, Texas, three fathers from Central America were reunited with children under 5 and released Tuesday night to an independent shelter for immigrants and asylum seekers.
In the same order addressing the youngest migrant children, Sabraw also mandated that children aged 5 through 17 - the rest of the almost 3,000, in other words - must be returned to their parents by July 26.
Javier Garrido Martinez holds his 4-year-old son during a news conference in New York, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. In fact, he has stated that "the families were improperly separated" in the first place.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle McConaghy told the judge the government has a plan to reunify all parents and children by the deadline. The Trump administration is trying to line up thousands more beds at military bases.
"Our message has been clear all along: Do not risk your own life or the life of your child by attempting to enter the United States illegally", the statement said.
The Trump administration adopted its family separation policy as part of a broader effort to discourage illegal immigration.