The process of reunifying an estimated 2,551 children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration should be completed by Thursday’s deadline, a San Diego federal judge overseeing the case said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw set the deadline last month after the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit over the child-parent separations.
In a briefing Tuesday, Sabraw said that of the 1,637 class members eligible for reunification, 1,012 have been cleared to be reunited with their families.
“This is a remarkable achievement,” the judge said, noting that the reunification of eligible children between age 5 and age 17 should be mostly completed by the time of the next court hearing on Friday afternoon.
In court papers filed Monday, government attorneys said 879 children had already been reunited with their parents, while another 538 had been cleared to be reunited.
Part of the unpleasant fallout from the government’s policy of separation is that as many as 463 parents may have removed from the United States without their children, Sabraw said. A government attorney told the judge that 914 parents are ineligible to be reunited with their children for various reasons, including a prior criminal record.
The judge ordered the Department of Justice to provide by noon Wednesday a list of parents who have waived reunification with their children prior to being deported.
Attorneys for the federal government have contended in previous proceedings that parents being deported had the right to take the children with them, but declined to do so, apparently hoping their children will be allowed to remain in the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the government over the separations, has countered that many of the immigrants likely didn’t understand or weren’t fully apprised of their legal rights.
Sabraw also ordered the government to provide a list of parents whose whereabouts are unknown.
The judge issued an order last week temporarily blocking the federal government from deporting parents who had been separated from their children at the border.
— City News Service