(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government won’t be able to reunite all immigrant children under five with their families by Tuesday’s deadline, but a federal judge in San Diego appeared satisfied with the progress officials are making.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego asked the U.S. to provide him with a list of the children it expects to return to their families by his deadline, as well as details about why the remainder of the more than 100 children require additional time.
“I am encouraged with the progress,” Sabraw said a status conference Monday. “I am optimistic that many of these families will be reunited by tomorrow and we will have a clear understanding of who has been reunited and the reasons for not reuniting others.”
The judge set another hearing Tuesday to discuss how to proceed with the children who can’t be reunited with their parents by the deadline because, among other reasons, the parents have been deported or were released within the U.S., and how much time the government will need to address those circumstances.
Sarah Fabian, a lawyer for the Justice Department, said that of the 102 children under five, the U.S. has determined 54 will be rejoined with their families. The families will then be released, she told the judge.
Fabian said that U.S. agencies had been trying to locate parents of nine children who have already been removed from the country to see if they wanted to be reunified with their young children.
“Perhaps there is a way of providing notification if they wanted to have their child reunified to them,” Fabian said.
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said it’s “unlikely” that any parent who was separated from their child before the judge’s ruling wouldn’t want them back. “I suspect they want their child back. We’d like the opportunity to confer and contact them,” he said.
The ACLU has faulted the U.S. for using needlessly lengthy procedures, including DNA analysis to determine the biological parents of minors and background checks to make sure the parents don’t have a serious criminal conviction.
The judge asked the government and the ACLU to brief him on any streamlined procedures to speed up reunification. The government will also need to return more than 2,000 children five and older to their parents. The judge gave the U.S. 30 days to accomplish that in a June 26 order.
The case is Ms. L. et al v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement et al, 18-cv-428, U.S District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).
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