US to reunite, release more than 50 immigrant children


Associated Press

SAN DIEGO

More than 50 immigrant children under age 5 will be reunited with their parents by today’s court-ordered deadline for action by Trump administration, and the families will then be released into the U.S., a government attorney said Monday.

That’s only about half of the 100 or so toddlers covered by the order.

At a court hearing, Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian acknowledged the government wouldn’t meet the deadline for all the children, citing a variety of reasons, including that the parents of some of the youngsters have already been deported.

Fabian said that 54 children will be joined with their parents by the end of today at locations across the country and that an additional five were undergoing final background checks.

It was the first time the government indicated whether the parents and children would be released or detained together. They will be set free in the U.S. pending the outcome of their immigration cases, which can take years.

Fabian didn’t say why they were being released, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has little space to hold families.

ICE has three family detention centers with room for about 3,000 people in all, and the places are already at or near capacity. The Trump administration is trying to line up thousands more beds at military bases.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt told reporters he was “both pleased and disappointed” with the government’s progress toward meeting the deadline.

“Tomorrow there will hopefully be more than 50 babies and toddlers reunited with their parents, and that is obviously an enormous victory,” he said. But he said those who remain split from their parents are “in for a long process.”

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered both sides back in court today to give another update and for him rule on differences over protocols to follow when reuniting children.

The two sides revealed in a filing late Monday that they are far apart on protocols for reunification, with the government arguing its practices are necessary under federal law to ensure child safety and the ACLU contending that many are too cumbersome under the circumstances. One area of disagreement is DNA testing on parents and children, with the government saying it should be the general rule and the ACLU saying it should be done only when no other evidence is available to prove parentage.

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