Justice Department lawyers said a majority of children who were forcibly separated from their families at the border were reunited by Tuesday, or soon would be. The deadline for 20 other children under five was missed because more time was needed to track down parents.
Some immigrant youngsters are back in the arms of their parents, but others remained in holding facilities away from relatives as federal officials fell short of meeting a court-ordered deadline to reunite dozens of children forcibly separated from their families at the border, the Associated Press reports. 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. It wasn’t immediately clear how many children left detention facilities Tuesday or how many remain.
In trying to meet the first deadline, the government began with a list of 102 children potentially eligible to be reunited and cut that to 75 through screening that included DNA testing done by swabbing the inside of the cheek. Of those 75, Justice Department attorneys told the court the government would guarantee 38 would be back with their parents by the end of Tuesday. They said another 17 could join their parents if DNA results arrived and a criminal background check on a parent was completed. Federal lawyers told Sabraw that the Trump administration would not meet the deadline for 20 other children under five because it needed more time to track down parents who have already been deported or released into the U.S. On Tuesday, Sabraw said, “These are firm deadlines. They’re not aspirational goals.” The government defended its screening, saying it discovered parents with serious criminal histories, five adults whose DNA tests showed they were not parents of the children they claimed to have, and one case of credible child abuse.