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Trump admin wants more time to reunite migrant children with their families

06 July 2018

During a call with reporters, Azar did not provide an exact number of children separated from families, but said that "a review and comprehensive audit of multiple data sets" undertaken by HHS and the Department of Homeland Security indicated that fewer than 3,000 total children, including an estimated 100 under the age of 5, are in the care of Office of Refugee Resettlement-funded grantees.

Administration officials also say that they won't be able to confirm a child's parentage by the deadline if DNA testing is inconclusive.

About 11,800 minors are now in United States custody after crossing over from Mexico, Azar said. "We are operating under a court order that forbids the DHS from holding family units together for longer than 20 days". The court gave a July 10 reunification deadline for children under the age of five, and a deadline of July 26 for all other children. The court order, Azar said, "goes back indefinitely".

Falcon also said it's not possible the migrant children - some as young as two months old - are giving their consent to DNA testing. "What we care about is the kids' welfare".

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. Another top official leading the effort said in the court filing that, although officials were working nights and over the weekend, they may be unable to quickly match some families because the tests were inconclusive, or the parents were released from custody and have not yet been found. Azar had said Thursday that "under 3,000" children had been separated from their parents.

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The administration had previously said that just over 2,000 separated minors remained in its care.

Most of the 11,800 are tradition UAC whose parents sent them to the border, or who came on their own, without any parent.

Although Azar suggested on Thursday that speedy reunification could risk releasing children to parents who are criminals or unsafe, the court filing states that the government does not now anticipate any delay based on the need to run background checks by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Generally, the legal bar for separating children from parents is extremely high, involving a finding that "the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child".

ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors in Brownsville, Texas, are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The families were separated after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border and being arrested under the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.

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Azar's agency, Health and Human Services, supervises migrant detention centres.

Although White said DNA will only be used for reuniting families and genetic fingerprints will remain confidential, advocates for migrant families were concerned about intrusiveness.

In a series of tweets, Trump demanded lawmakers "pass smart, fast and reasonable Immigration Laws" now, after the House of Representatives last month rejected a broad immigration bill that had his support.

Only recently, the president had told Republicans in Congress to stop wasting their time on immigration until after November's elections, but now Trump is insisting that Congress "FIX OUR INSANE IMMIGRATION LAWS NOW!"

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Trump admin wants more time to reunite migrant children with their families