ACLU says US will miss deadline to reunite migrant families

Published 07-09-2018

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SAN DIEGO (AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union said it appears the Trump administration will miss Tuesday's court-ordered deadline to reunite scores of young migrant children with their parents.

The ACLU said late Sunday that the administration provided it with a list of 102 children under 5 and that it "appears likely that less than half will be reunited" by the deadline.

The Justice Department asked U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw for more time last week, but the judge on Friday did not grant a blanket extension, saying only that he would consider certain exceptions.

He told the two sides to discuss possible exceptions and report back to him on Monday.

More than 2,000 children in all were forcibly separated from their parents at the Mexican border this spring under the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy on illegally entering the country. While parents were prosecuted, children were placed in the custody of the Health and Human Services Department.

President Donald Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an international outcry and said families should remain together.

On June 26, Sabraw set deadlines of Tuesday to reunite children under 5 with their families and July 26 for older children. Sabraw, who was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, wrote that the "situation has reached a crisis level" and that the "chaotic circumstances" were of the government's own making.

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said Monday that a judge can impose sanctions, usually fines, for failure to meet the deadline but that the organization is not pressing for that at this time. He said the ACLU instead wants a detailed explanation of when all families will be reunited.

"At this point what we need is very specific, concrete steps," he said.

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On June 26, Sabraw set deadlines of Tuesday to reunite children under 5 with their families and July 26 for older children. Sabraw, who was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, wrote that the "situation has reached a crisis level" and that the "chaotic circumstances" were of the government's own making.

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said Monday that a judge can impose sanctions, usually fines, for failure to meet the deadline but that the organization is not pressing for that at this time. He said the ACLU instead wants a detailed explanation of when all families will be reunited.

"At this point what we need is very specific, concrete steps," he said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday there were "under 3,000" children separated from their parents. Previously, he said 2,047.

"It's extremely disappointing that the Trump administration looks like it will fail to reunite even half the children under 5 with their parent," Gelernt said. "These kids have already suffered so much because of this policy, and every extra day apart just adds to that pain."

"At this point what we need is very specific, concrete steps," he said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday there were "under 3,000" children separated from their parents. Previously, he said 2,047.

"It's extremely disappointing that the Trump administration looks like it will fail to reunite even half the children under 5 with their parent," Gelernt said. "These kids have already suffered so much because of this policy, and every extra day apart just adds to that pain."

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FILE - In this June 18, 2018 file photo, dignitaries take a tour of Southwest Key Programs Casa Padre, a U.S. immigration facility in Brownsville, Texas, where children who have been separated from their families are detained. The American Civil Liberties Union says it appears the Trump administration will miss a Tuesday, July 10 deadline to reunite young children with their parents in more than half of the cases. The group said the administration provided it with a list of 102 children under 5 years old who must be reunited by Tuesday under an order by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego. It said in a statement that it “appears likely that less than half will be reunited” by that deadline. (Miguel Roberts /The Brownsville Herald via AP, File) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this June 25, 2018 file photo, Christian, from Honduras, recounts his separation from his child at the border during a news conference at the Annunciation House,in El Paso, Texas. A judge has put off at least until Monday, July 9, a ruling on a Trump administration request for more time to reunite more than 100 children under 5 who were separated from their parents after crossing the border. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Justice Department to share a list of the 101 children by Saturday afternoon with the American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully sued the administration to force the young children and families to be reunited by Tuesday. (AP Photo/Matt York, File) - The Associated Press