Judge Extends Deadline for Reuniting Migrant Children

Yeni Gonzalez, a Guatemalan mother who was separated from her three children at the US-Mexico border, at a news conference in July in NY.

We are going to propose within 48 hours of contacting a parent who is in the USA, and within one week of contacting a parent who's already been removed to another country.

The Justice Department has asked for more time to reunite parents - or to be excused from reuniting those who are deemed unfit - but Sabraw did not rule on that request Monday.

This plan bypasses the lengthy "sponsor" process that is required to release an unaccompanied immigrant child from Health and Human Services custody.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the parents in a class-action lawsuit, said US officials "have not even tried" to return 12 children to parents who were deported, and said officials should have more quickly found eight parents who have been released in the United States.

A June 26 court order stemming from a lawsuit filed over the Justice Department's "zero tolerance" policy - which led adults and children to be separated when apprehended crossing the border - gave the government two weeks to reunite children under the age of 5 with their parents, and one month for all others.

Dozens of immigrant children will be released from detention centres and reunited with their parents on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ Time).

It was the largest single effort to date to undo the effects of President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance policy of separating families who try to slip across the Mexican border into the country. In the courtroom, they expressed openness to collaborating on several issues, including searching for parents who have been removed from the US and double-checking the criminal records.

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He said the agency is also attempting to verify that parents do not have a background that make them inappropriate caretakers. The government asked the judge for "clarification" about how strictly it must adhere to both its policies and the deadlines.

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

Meanwhile, the administration faces a second, bigger deadline - July 26 - to reunite thousands of older children who were also separated from their families at the border in the past few months.

The reunions are expected to be carried out in secret or secure locations, with parents taken from the detention centers where they have been held and children brought from federal shelters or foster homes. Afterwards, the ACLU expanded its suit on behalf of the other parents and children the government planned to imminently separate.

"There's no question that the parties are meeting and conferring", District Judge Dana Sabraw said.

The government said it could not fully meet the first deadline because, in some cases, children's parents had already been deported or failed a criminal background check. "I'm optimistic that many of these families will be reunited tomorrow".

Most of the parents will be released into the US from immigration detention centers, and the children will be freed from government-contracted shelters.

"I would adopt a more streamlined approach here", he said, adding: "The parents are not applying for custody". Fabian said, arguing their hands are tied by logistics. Some parents are not eligible, the government said, because they have criminal records, were deemed to be unfit or, in one case, have a communicable disease.

"The court has a range of options from significant fines to other types of relief", said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.

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