Dozens of immigrant children in US set to reunite with parents

Christian from Honduras recounts his separation from his child at the border during a news conference at the Annunciation House in El Paso Texas

Children were increasingly separated from their parents after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in May that a zero-tolerance policy on illegally entering the country was in full effect.

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Only about half the children under age five who were separated from their parents at the USA border will be reunited with their families by Tuesday's court-ordered deadline.

Dana Sabraw, a federal judge in California, gave the administration until Tuesday to reunite children under five years old, and until July 26 to reunify older children. Before the parent-child separations became widespread, the government operated three family detention centers with bed space of about 3,300.

The two sides revealed in a filing late on Monday (Tuesday NZT) that they are far apart on protocols for reunification, with the government arguing its practices are necessary under federal law to ensure child safety and the ACLU contending that many are too cumbersome under the circumstances.

As Common Dreams reported, a federal judge ruled late last month that the Trump administration must reunite children under the age of five within 14 days and all of the almost 3,000 children it separated from their parents within 30 days.

Now the family detention system is at capacity - as are a network of about 100 shelters for migrant minors who traveled into the USA without parents or a guardian and who now wait anywhere from a few weeks to years to have their cases resolved in the immigration courts.

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These provisions included DNA testing and background checks on unrelated people who might end up living in the same home as the reunited family.

The filing noted 13 others now deemed ineligible for reunification, for reasons ranging from parents now in the custody of other criminal justice agencies to a parent who is being treated for a communicable disease, and one who lives in a home with another adult who has a criminal background. Some parents of the children have already been deported; others are still in criminal custody; others are undergoing background checks.

We are thrilled that more than 50 little children will be reunited with their parents by tomorrow, but we are extremely disappointed that it's not a greater number.

The ACLU sued in March on behalf of a Congolese woman who was separated from her daughter for five months after seeking asylum at a San Diego border crossing and a Brazilian asylum-seeker who was separated from her son after an arrest for illegal entry in August near the Texas-New Mexico border.

Attorneys for the government and the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the original lawsuit challenging family separations, said they worked together intensely over the weekend to identify the families affected by the deadline and to work out how to move forward.

All parties are expected to be back in court on Monday at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) in San Diego, where next steps will be discussed, the ACLU said. But on Monday, she said nine were removed from the United States and an additional nine were released here. "We just don't know how much effort the government's made to find" the parents. There is still one child that the government has no parental information on.

Lee Gelernt, the ACLU lawyer handling the case, said the government is taking the reunification demands seriously, though he said he thinks the government can do better than the 54.

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