Published: Thu, July 12, 2018

All migrant kids under 5 to be back with parents by Thursday

All migrant kids under 5 to be back with parents by Thursday

The father and son cried throughout the reunification meeting as he pet his son's hair.

Another boy and a girl who had been in temporary foster care were reunited with their Honduran fathers at the center about three months after they were split up.

Of those 75, Justice Department attorneys told the court the government would guarantee 38 would be back with their parents by the end of Tuesday.

In Grand Rapids, the children were "absolutely thrilled to be with their parents again".

Late last month, Sabraw, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, set a 14-day deadline to reunite children under 5 with their parents and a 30-day deadline for older children. That effectively limited detention to 20 days - a timeline set under a 1997 court settlement known as Flores - for migrant adults apprehended with children.

At a court hearing, Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian acknowledged the government wouldn't meet the deadline for all the children, citing a variety of reasons, including that the parents of some of the youngsters have already been deported.

"I thought that they were going to take my daughter away there", she said.

Among the other remaining question marks is whether authorities can streamline their vetting process for the migrant parents - which ACLU attorneys have described as needlessly cumbersome - and whether the government can pass along the locations migrant families will be released from custody, so that charity groups can more quickly offer them support.


The announcement comes as the U.S. government scrambles to reunite thousands of migrant children who were separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. With key deadlines looming, the government says it's doing everything it can but in some cases will need more time than the court has given them. He stated, "These are firm deadlines".

Still, despite the frustrations and delays, Sabraw sounded a positive note, suggesting that he would be inclined to extend the July 10 deadline given the work that Fabian presented Monday.

Speaking outside the White House before flying to Europe, Trump said: "Well, I have a solution".

Trump said Tuesday that he has a solution to the missed deadline: "Tell people not to come to our country illegally".

As the government awaits the court's Monday decision on whether or not the timeline for family reunification will be extended, time is of the essence: doctors have repeatedly warned that being separated from parents for even short periods of time can cause symptoms of toxic stress in children, which can derail healthy emotional development. Last week, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said there were "under 3000" separated children in all.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt sought assurances from the government on Monday (Tuesday NZT) that advocates would be in position to guide parents when they are released in a foreign land.

"Things have taken a real step forward", Gelernt said. On June 27, she finally made contact with her children and has been given weekly visitation rights. Officials are now complaining that the immediacy of the deadline is not realistic given the stringent vetting process necessary to ensure that all of the children in government custody are returned to the proper caretakers. Many are being held in facilities thousands of miles apart.

A Guatemalan man said his 6-year-old son feared he was dead after USA authorities separated the pair in May in El Paso, Texas. Hermelindo Che Coc, 31, said the boy cried on the phone with him from the shelter and asked whether he still loved him. HHS Chief of Staff in the Office of Preparedness and Response Chris Meekins told NPR, "HHS is complying with the court order to reunify children separated at the border from their parents".

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