Judge Says U.S. Must Name Czar to Reunify Remaining Children

(Bloomberg) -- The federal judge presiding over the reunification of immigrant children separated from their parents at the U.S. border ordered the government to figure out how to reunite the more than 500 children still in custody after calling the government’s efforts “unacceptable.”

The government must “identify an individual or a team” to create and implement a procedure for those kids to be reunified with their families -- most of whom have been deported -- U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw told Justice Department attorneys in San Diego. At a hearing earlier Friday, Sabraw said it appeared the government had no plan for the remaining families and chided the government for its disappointing stance.

In a status report Thursday, the Trump administration argued it was the American Civil Liberties Union’s responsibility to locate the parents of hundreds of immigrant children who remain in the U.S. and still haven’t been reunited with their families despite a July 26 court-ordered deadline. A majority of those children’s parents have already been deported and aren’t in the country, according to the latest figures from the U.S. The judge disagreed.

“The reality is that for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanently orphaned child” and that is “100 percent the responsibility” of the administration, Sabraw said at the hearing.

Private Groups

ACLU lawyers argued that the Trump administration is trying to shirk its responsibility by passing its work off to private groups despite its own considerable resources.

“Not only was it the government’s unconstitutional separation practice that led to this crisis, but the United States government has far more resources than any group” of non-governmental organizations or lawyers trying to help, the ACLU’s Lee Gelernt wrote in a letter to Sabraw on Thursday.

The civil liberties group argues the administration created the crisis, in which thousands of migrant children were taken from their parents at the southern U.S. border during its “zero tolerance” immigration sweep, and has both the resources and the responsibility to help identify and contact family members.

Of at least 2,551 migrant children separated from their parents as a result of the policy the government implemented in June, 1,535 children have been reunited with their families, according to the status report. Meanwhile, 572 children remain in U.S. custody. Of those, 410 have parents who’ve been deported.

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