Trump Administration Seeks More Time To Reunify Migrant Families

HHS Secy Pushes Back on Reports of Mass Confusion in Reuniting Migrant Families

US District Court Judge Dana Sabraw on June 26 ordered the Trump administration to return immigrant children younger than five to their parents within two weeks.

The preliminary injunction gives the administration until Tuesday to reunite parents and children under age 5, and until July 26 to reunite parents and children age 5 and older.

A judge has put off at least until Monday a ruling on a Trump administration request for more time to reunite more than 100 children under 5 who were separated from their parents after crossing the border.

Azar said Thursday that federal employees are now manually reviewing documents for each of the 11,800 individual immigrant children in HHS custody to see if anything in their files indicate they arrived at the border with their parents.

"HHS anticipates, however, in some instances it will not be able to complete the additional processes within the timelines the court prescribed, particularly with regard to class members who are already not in government custody", they wrote.

"This isn't some vast sprawling data set that we're matching up", he said.

In total, about 11,800 migrant children are now detained by USA authorities after having crossed the border illegally, but 80 percent of them are teenagers who arrived alone, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar has said.

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The Trump administration has been facing continued scrutiny and questions over what will happen to the undocumented families who were separated as a result of the administration's widely criticized "zero-tolerance" immigration policy. "We are also doing DNA testing to confirm parentage, quickly and accurately", he said.

Several hundred have already been reunited with their parents, but the government has struggled to keep up, and it admitted Thursday to using DNA tests to determine parentage.

"The government must reunite them", the judge said.

Mr Azar said the DNA tests were needed to comply with a court deadline to reunite the separated families. She said she is seeking clarification on how the government should handle these reunification cases given those requirements. Azar also called Sabraw's deadlines "extreme".

Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an worldwide outcry from opponents who said families should remain together. "It just doesn't make sense", he continued. According to HHS, it's because the number of immigrant children in the agency's care is always in flux - and because they are working with other agencies to cross-check the numbers they have. Associated Press/Jacquelyn Martin The lack of those identification numbers became a major issue after the children were placed in the custody of the Health and Human Services department and flown to shelters across the country. The ongoing hearing is being held to update compliance with his order. "If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in early May. That process would take longer than the court-ordered deadlines allow, Azar stated.

The agency said it has expedited its existing process for reunification. The Trump administration in a court filing late Thursday night requested further guidance from the court on reuniting the families, saying the government may need more time in certain cases.

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