Migrant families in Yuma
Migrant families in the Yuma area. Courtesy Border Patrol

A San Diego federal judge issued a six-month deadline Thursday for the Trump administration to identify children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the government’s zero tolerance policy regarding illegal border crossings.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issued the six-month order Thursday afternoon for the federal agencies behind the identification and reunification efforts, which will be tasked with combing through the files of about 47,000 children taken into government custody between mid-2017 to mid-2018.

Sabraw said he was confident that the identifications could be performed within a six-month timeline, but said he could extend the deadline, “subject to good cause.”

The government previously said the identifications could take as much as two years, though Commander Jonathan White, who is heading the identification efforts for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Thursday he did not anticipate it would take that long and would consider a two-year result to be “a devastating defeat.”

White said he believes the six-month timeline should be sufficient, barring unforeseen hurdles.

The government will be required to report to the court every few weeks to update on the progress of the identifications, and provide information on any identified children to the ACLU.

The reunification plans arose through a class-action lawsuit brought on by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the government over the separations that occurred under the administration’s immigration policies.

Lee Gelernt, who represents the ACLU, said he believes the deadline should be shorter than six months, but felt that a firm deadline was an overall positive to avoid letting the issue linger and give way to potential “bureaucratic slippage.”

–City News Service