Saturday, 22 September, 2018

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

Christian from Honduras recounts his separation from his child at the border during a news conference at the Annunciation House in El Paso Texas U.S. says all eligible youngest children, families reunited
Melinda Barton | 12 July, 2018, 20:43

"Our process may not be as quick as some would like, but there is no question it is protecting children", said Chris Meekins, a Health and Human Services Department official helping to direct the process. As for the 64 children who remain in custody, the administration provided a list of excuses that includes reasons behind the failure to reunify 64 of the children, such as eight "parents had serious criminal history" or one "parent detained in ICE custody is now being treated for a communicable disease". More than 2,500 kids were taken from their parents so the adults could be prosecuted for illegally crossing the border ― and, before the court order, the government often declined to put the families back together even after criminal proceedings were completed. Nine were in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service for other offences. They were returned to their relatives by early Thursday morning, the administration said.

District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to reunite all of the under-five children by Tuesday, and the older ones by July 26.

Attorneys for the government and ACLU had said Monday they expected roughly half of the 102 children under age 5 who were separated from their families at the border to be reunited by Tuesday.

"If in fact 57 children have been reunited because of the lawsuit, we could not be more happy for those families", he said.

The two sides revealed in a filing late Monday that they are far apart on protocols for reunification, with the government arguing its practices are necessary under federal law to ensure child safety and the ACLU contending that many are too cumbersome under the circumstances.

Rodriguez said the commander running the shelter at Tornillo told him that none of the children there would be housed at Fort Bliss, one of two Texas military bases that the Pentagon has said will likely house thousands of immigrants who have been apprehended at the border.

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

Government officials touted the screening process for parents, including background checks and DNA tests. "Our position is the court has the authority to order the release of the parents in this case and reunify them with their children".

Parents in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody "for the most part" are being taken to locations near their children and the families will be released, Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian said in court.

The Trump administration listed the 12 parents who have been deported as ineligible for reunification at this time, although the judge ordered the government to put those families back together as well.

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 U.S. "They are just using children!" he said. "It's all confusing to them why there's so many people here and why there's so many strangers here, but they know that they're safe", Valdes said outside the ICE offices. Seven of the adults "were determined not to be a parent" of the child with whom they entered the country, the government said.

Pressed on whether his "solution" was to punish children for being brought to the USA illegally by adults, Trump retreated to more general comments. But as government employees would soon realize, they had their work cut out for them.

As daunting as the process appeared in court, this week's deadline concerns less than 5 percent of the children separated from their parents in recent months.

HHS and DHS are working to make arrangements for those children ages 5 to 17, officials said.