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Government Won’t Reunite All Under-5 Children With Parents Before Tuesday Deadline

11 July 2018

In one instance, the administration said the parent of one of the separated minors was undergoing treatment for a communicable disease and would be reunited with their child once treatment was complete.

The filing noted 13 others now deemed ineligible for reunification, for reasons ranging from parents now in the custody of other criminal justice agencies to a parent who is being treated for a communicable disease, and one who lives in a home with another adult who has a criminal background.

Under the "zero-tolerance", policy, while parents entering the United States illegally were held for prosecution, children were placed in Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) facilities across the country.

HHS admitted it had resorted to DNA testing on some of the children to try to match them with their parents. They will be set free in the United States pending the outcome of their immigration cases, which can take several years.

The government defended its screening, saying it discovered parents with serious criminal histories and one case of credible child abuse.

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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.

Abril Valdez of the ACLU of MI said the government was "vague" on the time and place of the reunifications that could come on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) for two Honduran men he represents.

The infant is one of hundreds of children who have yet to be reunited with their parents, with many separated from their families under the Trump administration's recently rescinded "zero tolerance" family separation policy. Azar said for another 16 of the 102 migrants under five, the children weren't being reunited because the parents were found to either be "demonstrably unfit" or not to be the parents of the child in question. A longtime court settlement says children who cross the border illegally can not be detained for more than 20 days.

"The goal of the [Trafficking Victims Protection Act ] is to promote the best interests of the child and to reunite families", the ACLU had argued. "They want to punish these families who are here and deter others from coming".

Stewart said that in those instances, children would go into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which cares for kids apprehended without their parents and for those taken from their families at the border.

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"We just don't know how much effort the government has made to find released parents", he said.

In ordering an end to the separation of families, the president said they should instead be detained together.

ICE has three family detention centres with room for about 3000 people in all, and the places are already at or near capacity.

More than 2,300 children were separated from their parents after U.S. President Donald Trump's administration began a "zero tolerance" policy in early May, seeking to prosecute all adults who crossed the border illegally.

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Government lawyers said some reunions may not immediately be possible because parents have not been located or are still serving criminal sentences, such as for crossing the border illegally. Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit, said activists have turned up as many as 10 more names that need to added to the number of separated kids still in detention. The ACLU contends that there may be more separated children that the government has not counted.

Government Won’t Reunite All Under-5 Children With Parents Before Tuesday Deadline