US says it won’t meet court’s deadline to reunite migrant families
A federal judge had ordered that the youngest children be returned to their parents by Tuesday, but the Trump administration offered a number of reasons for why it couldn’t
Facing a court-imposed deadline on Tuesday, the US government has said it expects to have reunited 54 young children and parents separated by immigration officials after crossing into the United States from Mexico.
The government said in court on Monday that it could not meet the July 10 deadline for all of the roughly 100 children under five years old it had been ordered to reunify.
The children were taken from their parents under US President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which called for the prosecution and detention of adult immigrants crossing the border without authorisation.
After public outcry and a court challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union, Trump stopped separating children and parents last month.
A federal judge in California ordered that the youngest children be returned to their parents by Tuesday. Judge Dana Sabraw also ordered an estimated 2,000 older children must be reunited by July 26.
The government has said it cannot fully meet the first deadline for a variety of reasons. In some cases, children’s parents had already been deported or failed a criminal background check. Others, it said, were unable to prove the relationship. Some detained parents had been released from custody and could not be contacted.
The government was due to update the court in San Diego on Tuesday.
Some lawyers representing the separated children, who have been scattered into foster systems across the country, said they were in the dark as to what would happen to their young clients. Many of the separated children are fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The Legal Aid Society in New York said it was representing at least two separated children under five years old that meet the judge’s criteria for reunification on Tuesday.
One child was due to be released to his mother, said Beth Krause, the supervising lawyer for Legal Aid’s Immigrant Youth Project.
“I have no details about where, when, under what conditions,” she wrote in an email on Tuesday morning. The other child would remain with a foster family while the father remained in government custody, although it was not entirely clear to her why.
“I know very very little about this case,” she said. “It’s all very frustrating.”
Sabraw issued a protective order in the case that shields children’s names and some reunification details from disclosure.
Trump was dismissive of reporters’ questions about the missed deadline on Tuesday.
“Tell people not to come to our country illegally,” he said. “That’s the solution.”
A number of the separated families arrived at US ports of entry seeking asylum, which is not illegal.