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Judge warns Trump administration to stick to deadline on family reunification

11 July 2018

For almost one month Perez knew nothing about her children - "the longest, most torturous time of my life", she said.

For context, that's almost as much as the group raised in total after its viral Facebook fundraiser, "Reunite an immigrant parent with their child", shattered records for charitable donations last month. One child has still not had either of its parents identified.

"DNA testing doesn't need to be done in every case", they said.

Douglas Christian/ZUMA Press/NewscomAlready under fire for separating children from their parents at the Mexican border, the Trump administration has informed a federal judge that it will not fully meet today's deadline to reunite the families.

Some families will miss the deadline.

"Tell people not to come to our country illegally", he said.

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"Nobody likes to be held in contempt of court", said Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration and asylum law at Cornell University.

Lee Gelernt, ACLU deputy director of the Immigrants' Rights Project, said 54 children under 5 who were separated from their parents at the border are expected to be reunified Tuesday.

But Gelernt took issue with the administration's "continued insistence on using the longer reunification process" - procedures HHS uses for children who arrive to the United States alone. The parents will be free while their cases wind through immigration court, which can take years, and may be required to wear ankle monitors.

Thousands of babies, toddlers and older children were separated from their parents at the border this spring before Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an worldwide outcry over the images of youngsters in chain-link cages and audio recordings of children crying. But that number was in flux Tuesday morning, with the process proceeding more slowly than anticipated.

Rebuffing White House requests, Sabraw also declined to extend the deadlines for reunification, declaring that they are "firm deadlines" not "aspirational goals".

The New York Times reported late last week that, under pressure to reunite the families, authorities were struggling to connect them after records linking children to their parents disappeared and in some cases were destroyed, though not as part of a deliberate attempt to obfuscate.

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About 40 other very young children will not be returned to their parents yet, despite a court-imposed deadline, because the Trump administration either has not finished matching them with their parents or has not cleared the parents to take custody. "The government can not lawfully detain parents if the parent is neither a flight nor danger [risk]", he said in an email.

Earlier this year, the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services - the agencies responsible for detaining families at the border and housing children who have been separated from their families, respectively - announced a new partnership in which potential sponsors to take children out of HHS custody would be fingerprinted, as would everyone in the sponsor's household.

Under the policy, adults who otherwise might have been directed into civil deportation proceedings were instead criminally prosecuted for entering the country illegally.

RAICES did not say how it meant to post bail once in D.C. or offer any details about the individuals it hoped to release.

The Department of Justice asked Gee to alter a 1997 settlement, which provides the framework for how to handle detained immigrant children, so it could detain families together for longer periods. But the government does not have the room: ICE has three family detention centers with space for 3,000 people, and they are already at or near capacity, though the Trump administration is trying to line up space at military bases.

The notice also says that parents who are going to be deported can decide beforehand whether to ask for their child to go with them. The judge refused to modify that. Their three-year-old sons were in temporary foster care in Grand Rapids while they were in a jail in Battle Creek.

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Judge warns Trump administration to stick to deadline on family reunification