Many women and children from Mexico and Central America waited to see if they would be the next people allowed to enter the U.S.
Many women and children from Mexico and Central America wait to see if they would be the next people allowed to enter the U.S. Photo by Chris Stone

A San Diego federal judge overseeing the reunification of families separated at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration Friday questioned attorneys involved in a class-action lawsuit and related cases about the progress being made to get children back with their parents, many of whom have been deported.

“Many, many families remain separated,” said U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw. “Are we optimistic?”

In a related case, Sabraw extended a freeze on deporting separated families, giving children a chance to seek their own asylum. That freeze remains in effect.

At an earlier hearing, Sabraw told the federal government it was “100 percent” responsible for children being separated from their parents and ordered officials to work to ensure that no child becomes an orphan as a result.

The American Civil Liberties Union earlier this year filed the class- action suit demanding that families separated at the border be reunited.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott Stewart said the government has been in contact with the deported parents of 318 out of 322 children who are still in federal care in the United States.

ACLU national attorney Lee Gelernt said a steering committee has confirmed the wishes of 43 parents with respect to reunification, and expects to deliver confirmed preferences for many more in the coming week.

The government said the accurate number of children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement with removed parents was 343 as of last week. Officials could find no phone number for 19 of those parents, the plaintiffs in the San Diego case said.

Gelernt has said he expects that many parents who have been separated from their children for many months will seek rapid reunification in their country of origin, mostly in Central America.

But in some cases, removed parents may not have availed themselves of their right to seek asylum because they were misled or coerced into believing that asserting their asylum claim would delay or preclude reunification, Gelernt said.

Another status conference is scheduled for next Friday.

— City News Service

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