Judge says USA must reunite migrant families or face penalties

Elias Hubbard
July 12, 2018

The San Diego Judge said he was sticking with deadlines he set last month.

On Monday, a federal judge in Los Angeles rejected a request by the U.S. Department of Justice to amend a decades-old court settlement that limits the amount of time immigrant children can be held in federal custody.

Federal officials said in court records filed Tuesday that 38 of the 102 children under age 5 separated from their parents at the U.S. -Mexico will have been reunited by Tuesday's deadline. He told attorneys that the final deadline will be "a significant undertaking".

During the June 27th ruling, the Judge stated that "Measures were not in place to provide for communication between governmental agencies responsible for detaining parents and those responsible for housing children, or to provide for ready communication between separated parents and children".

Javier, a 30-year old from Honduras, holds his 4-year old son William during a media availability in NY after they were reunited after being separated for 55 days following their detention at the Texas border, U.S., July 11, 2018.

Sabraw's order included exceptions that might threaten the safety of the child.

The ACLU argued, in response to that claim, that the administration had not made a good-faith effort to contact those parents who had been deported to facilitate reunification with their children. In a press call later Tuesday, HHS officials and officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suggested that there was nothing stopping those parents from consulting with consulate authorities to find their children. Yet in a disturbing investigation published Monday, BuzzFeed News has found that to not be the case, detailing the stories of several women who say they were ignored, roughly handled, shackled around the belly, and denied urgent medical care - even as they were miscarrying their children.

With no other apparent plans in motion for how to receive the waves of migrants fleeing Central America, the Trump administration appears to have turned to the very same practice the president has blamed for the status quo.

Six of the 102 children are not eligible for reunification because they have a parent with a criminal history or were separated from someone who is not their parent. One parent was suspected of child abuse; another was living in a household with another adult who had an outstanding warrant for criminal sexual abuse of a minor. The ACLU said the government hasn't been able to explain why that is taking so long.

'Our process may not be as quick as some would like, but there is no question it is protecting children, ' said Chris Meekins, a Health and Human Services Department official helping to direct the process.

Matthew Albence, executive associate director of ICE's enforcement and removal programs, told reporters on Tuesday that the administration had also at least temporarily ceased referring adults who arrive in the US illegally with children for prosecution, adding that they will be given ankle bracelets "and released into the community". In the month leading up to the executive order alone, some 2,300 children were separated from their parents and placed in "cage-like juvenile detention facilities".

In fact, through DNA testing, two adults who apparently thought they were parents of a child were determined not to be, he said.

ACLU lawyers took issue with the remaining 16. "I thought children were supposed to be a priority here in the United States". Another five families will likely be reunited after Tuesday, once the background check process is completed.

The Trump administration was left with few options after a series of court orders.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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