U.S. says all eligible youngest children, families reunited

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American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt addresses reporters after a hearing in San Diego, Calif., Monday, July 9, 2018.

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SAN DIEGO - Some immigrant toddlers are back in the arms of their parents, but others remained in holding facilities away from relatives as federal officials fell short of meeting a court-ordered deadline to reunite dozens of youngsters forcibly separated from their families at the border.

Last week, the administration requested an extension on the reunification process for those children under the age of 5, stating in a separate hearing Monday that it had only reunited two of them with their parents and would not be able to meet the court-imposed deadline for the rest.

But almost half - 46 of the 103 children under the age of 5 who were placed in government care - remain separated because of safety concerns, the deportation of their parents and other issues, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The government is under pressure to reunite the children under a court order issued on June 26. "That's the solution." Apparently, the president wasn't informed that his administration very well may have separated a legal US citizen from his child, a problem to which his "solution" does not apply.

Thursday, Chris Meekins, a senior HHS official, said any delay in reunifying children was necessary to ensure they weren't being handed over to human smugglers posing as parents, or parents who pose a danger.

On Tuesday, Justice Department lawyers told Sabraw they would reunite 38 children by the deadline.

The Justice Department told Sabraw on Tuesday officials had found that some parents were unfit for reunification because they had criminal histories, some had already been deported and still others had not yet been located.

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ACLU lawyers have protested that federal officials were taking too long to find the parents who were deported and dragging out the vetting process of parents still in the United States by requiring home checks or DNA testing for adults who were clearly the children's parents.

McConaghy also said that the US attorney has been pressing the government to reunite J.S.R. and V.F.B. with their parents before the court-ordered deadline. The child is now in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement. "They're not aspirational goals", the judge said Tuesday, the day of the initial deadline, saying the government still had hours in the day to reunify the youngest migrants affected by the administration's policy. Unaccompanied children, some as young as 1 year old, have been kept in large chain link cages, and in some cases, forced to represent themselves in court.

The government pays for DNA and screening fees, officials said. Seven adults were "determined not to be the parent". He declined to provide details about every case, but said one adult was convicted of child cruelty and narcotics charges. It now appears as if the Trump administration will clearly miss this deadline by a wide margin.

The parents are now being contacted through their embassies, he said, and will be given the option of having their children sent back to them. The order provided the administration with 15 days to reunite children under the age of 5 and 30 days to reunite all others.

The distance between many children and their parent or parents have been coupled with logistical challenges and resulted in a major bureaucratic snag.

The Trump administration was left with few options after a series of court orders.

"But until I have both my children with me, I don't know what I will do", she said.

Some parents who were already deported may choose not to have their child sent to them, in some cases because the child has other family in the USA or can pursue asylum or other relief.

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