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Missing Parents, Trump Administration Doesn't Make Deadline to Reunite Families, Gets Extension
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10 Jul 2018 04:14 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Gavel (Image source: Public domain)

 

Remember that deadline the Trump administration was given for reuniting separated children under five with their families? It's come and gone, and the families aren't reunited yet. However, an extension has been granted. Time will tell if they make good use of it or not.

 

Not that anyone is too surprised. A San Diego-based judge gave the administration 14 days to return the younger children and a month to return the older children. The zero-tolerance policy was instituted back in April, so some of these families have been separated since then.  

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw admonished the administration for "a chaotic circumstance of the government's own making" and also mentioned the "startling reality" that there seemed to be no set plan for reuniting the families again before they acted on the zero-tolerance policy.

 

But it seems not that much progress was made in those 14 days. On Monday a Justice Department lawyer said that out of the 96 children under five that they believe fell within the judge's order, only two had been reunited with a parent. 

However, they expected to make progress with it by the Tuesday deadline. They expected to be able to reunite 54 of the younger children and as many as five more. But this was dependent on their parents passing criminal background checks, according to Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian.

 

Once they are reunited, the families will likely be released from custody, as Fabian points out the parents aren't being held. The two children who have been released are already out of custody. 

Sabraw ordered the DOJ and the American Civil Liberties Union, who is representing the plaintiffs in the matter, to file paperwork showing which children they expected to not be able to reunite with their families, why more time is needed, and a schedule for when it will happen.

 

The trouble that they are having is that they can't locate some of the parents, as they were already deported or were released from custody in the U.S. The list of children initially included 102, but five of them were removed from the list because the parent had a criminal record and therefore couldn't be reunited, or the government found that the adult who crossed the border with the child was not their parent. 

12 children on the list have parents who are in state or federal custody, and most of the federally-detained parents will be transferred to immigration custody once their criminal cases are over. The release of the four in state custody isn't known. Four children on the list will be released to a non-parent sponsor, and one child remains on the list with the government not sure of the parents' status.

 

There have been different reasons given for this delay than what BuzzfeedNews reported from court. The New York Times reported last week that two Department of Homeland Security officials has said that records that linked parents and children have disappeared, with some having been destroyed. Making the situation even more mangled was that two federal agencies were involved and were not sharing records with each other. 

While on Friday Sabraw denied the government's request to extend the deadline, on Monday he extended the deadline, recognizing that some of the cases "will necessitate additional time." That exact date was expected to be set on Tuesday, depending on the progress that was made.

 

"The court is holding the Trump administration's feet to the fire to get these kids reunited with their parents. That's the most important thing," said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.

"It's extremely disappointing the government will not be in full compliance with the court order, but the judge has stepped in to manage this mess of the administration's making."

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