U.S. BORDER — Around 1,400 children of some 2,500 separated families at the U.S.-Mexican border have been reunited with them, the U.S. government said in a court filing on Thursday, July 26.
Government lawyers said 711 other children were not yet eligible for reunification with their parents in time for Thursday’s deadline, which was set by a federal judge in San Diego. Of those, 431 could not be reunited because their parents were no longer in the United States.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official Chris Meekins said the department was awaiting guidance from the court about how to proceed with the 431 children whose parents are no longer in the country.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement is an agency of the department.
The government did not say how many of those parents were deported.
President Trump’s “zero tolerance policy” toward illegal immigration separated the parents and children. Many of them crossed the border illegally, while some sought asylum at a border crossing.
The American Civil Liberties Union brought the case against the government. It said in Thursday’s court filing that data showed “dozens of separated children still have not been matched to a parent.”
ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt accused the government in a statement of “picking and choosing who is eligible for reunification” and said the ACLU would, “hold the government accountable and get these families back together.”
The ACLU said the government has not provided it with information about the reunifications of children aged 5-17 with their parents.
“This information is critical both to ensure that these reunifications have in fact taken place,” it said, “and to enable class counsel to arrange for legal and other services for the reunited families.”
The pressure on the government to meet the court’s deadline to reunite families was marred by confusion and the ACLU said children had disappeared into a “black hole”, immigration advocates said.
Maria Odom, vice president of legal services for Kids in Need of Defense, said two children were sent from New York to Texas to be reunited with their mother, only to find out she’d already been deported.
Odom said Kids in Need of Defense also doesn’t know where the children, aged 9 and 14, have been taken.
She said it was an example “of how impossible it is to track these children once they are placed in the black hole of reunification.”
U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered the government to reunite the families and set Thursday as the deadline after President Trump ordered separations to stop in June.
Sabraw has criticized aspects of the process, but in recent days, has praised government efforts.
The ACLU and government lawyers will discuss how to proceed in court on Friday, July 27.
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