Forcing families that have already suffered the vast trauma of being wrenched apart and jailed separately for weeks to wait even longer before they are reunited, the Trump administration is on pace to unify less than half of detained children under five years old with their parents before Tuesday's court-imposed deadline, the ACLU said late Sunday. "I'm optimistic that many of these families will be reunited tomorrow, and that we'll have a very clear understanding as to who has not been reunited, why not, and what timeframe will be in place".
The move comes in advance of a Monday hearing on whether to extend the Tuesday deadline for reuniting the children with their families.
Gelernt said the youngsters "have already suffered so much because of this policy, and every extra day apart just adds to that pain".
"There's no question that the parties are meeting and conferring", District Judge Dana Sabraw said.
That was apparent Friday, when government attorneys asked for an extension of the July 10 deadline to complete those reunions.
Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian provided the court with the most detailed data thus far on the 102 children under age 5 whom it identified as separated from their parents at the border. Others are still going through the backgrounding process to ensure they are the children's parents and fit to take custody of them. It said Monday that it plans to demand that the court set a deadline for reunifying parents with their kids within 48 hours of making contact if the parents are within the USA and within one week if the parents have already been deported.
During the hearing the ACLU also accused the Trump administration of missing 10 children in its count of those in its custody aged newborn to five.
The ACLU said late Sunday the administration provided it with a list of 102 children under 5 years old and that "appears likely that less than half will be reunited" by Tuesday's deadline. There are less than 3,000 undocumented immigrant children now in federal custody. As noted above, we do not know exactly how many children were separated from their families or how many have rejoined them. The ACLU contends that there may be more separated children that the government has not counted. As for the rest, she claimed, three were brought by someone who is not their biological parent, three have parents with serious criminal records that bar reunification, five have parents with something on their record that requires further investigation, 12 have parents either in local or federal criminal detention who must serve time before being transferred to ICE, 18 have parents who were lost by the administration after their deportation or release into the US, and four have been approved for release to a non-parent sponsor.
The government has offered a variety of reasons why they can't reunite different families. Around 80 percent of them are teenagers who tried to make the crossing without their parents, HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said. One child's parents could not be identified.
The other parents have either been deported, failed a criminal background check, were unable to prove they were the parent or had been released and immigration agents had been unable to contact them, said Fabian.
"The kids are all over the country", said ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt. The numbers were revealed during a court hearing between the government and the American Civil Liberties Union, which secured Sabraw's preliminary injunction requiring family reunification last month.