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ACLU: Less than half of child reunions will meet deadline

Written by Elliot Spagat/The Associated Press | Jul 9, 2018 3:40 AM
immigration_family_separation_12.jpg

Buena Ventura Martin-Godinez, from Guatemala, holds her son, Pedro, as she walks out of a store in Homestead, Fla., on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. Despite their request for asylum, the family is scattered. The husband, convicted of the misdemeanor offense of illegal entry into the U.S., awaits almost certain deportation at a jail in Atlanta. Their daughter is in the custody of a private child welfare agency in Michigan. Wearing a heavy black monitoring device strapped to her ankle, Martin and her baby boy are with relatives. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

(San Diego) -- The American Civil Liberties Union said it appears the Trump administration will miss a court-ordered deadline to reunite young children who were separated at the border with their parents in more than half of the cases.

The ACLU said late Sunday the administration provided it with a list of 102 children under 5 years old and that "appears likely that less than half will be reunited" by Tuesday's 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 over the weekend and report to him Monday.

The Justice Department said early Monday that the administration "worked tirelessly" since Friday "toward the shared goal of promptly reunifying families while ensuring the safety of the children."

"The results of that work have been highly encouraging, and the Department of Justice is eager to present its progress to the court on Monday and to chart a path forward to safely reunifying other families expeditiously," it said.

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. While parents were criminally prosecuted, children were placed in custody of the Health and Human Services Department.

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 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.

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In this June 21, 2018, photo, migrant children walk off a bus at the Catholic Charities' Msgr. (Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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," said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt. "These kids have already suffered so much because of this policy, and every extra day apart just adds to that pain."

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.

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