U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego has ruled to give the U.S. government more time to reunite some 3,000 kids it separated from parents trying to enter the U.S.-Mexico border since May.
Judge Sabraw asked government lawyers to provide an updated list of which children will be reunited, who cannot, and a reunification timeline by Tuesday morning.
During a hearing on Monday morning, Sabraw said he recognized that the process "will necessitate additional time."
Federal judge Sabraw originally ruled to give the administration two weeks to reunite children under five with their parents. That deadline was to expire Tuesday, July 10. The Donald Trump administration was given 30 days - until July 26 - to rejoin all other kids - approximately 3,000 in total.
Last Friday the administration asked Sabraw for an extension but the judge was hesitant, saying he needed more information.
"Can we have an intelligent conversation Monday morning about which child can be reunited by July 10, which will not — and then the court can determine whether it makes sense to relax the deadline. But I need more information," the judge remarked last Friday.
Earlier on Monday attorneys for the administration reported they could reunite half of the kids under five with their parents by Tuesday evening.
Sarah Fabian, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, said 54 of the 101 children younger than five would be reunited with parents by Tuesday evening. She added that the number could increase depending on background checks go that she said are being used to verify where the parents are.
But anonymous administration officials who spoke to the NY Times said the reunification effort has been a "bureaucratic nightmare" involving several databases.
Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case, said he did not think the government was complying with the reunification order.
"It is very troubling that there are children and parents who are not in some kind of government tracking system," he said after Monday’s court hearing.
He also questioned the accuracy of the government's list of children under the age of five, wondering if 101 wasn’t a low number.
Of the 47 children yet to be connected to a parent, 19 of their parents have already been deported and another 19 were released and the government cannot locate them. Others had failed a criminal background check or were unable to prove they were the parent, said Fabian.
Between mid-May and late June, the Department of Justice implemented a ‘zero tolerance’ policy at the U.S.-Mexico border as an attempt to deter the influx of Central American migrants and asylum seekers trying to enter the country. Over 2,000 people were arrested, most with kids in tow. After public outcry Trump vowed to end the separations, a move he was doubly forced to comply with under Sabraw’s ruling.
There are many reports of these youngsters being forced to represent themselves in court.
Though around 2,300 kids were separated from their parents since May, Sabraw's order calls for all separated children to be reunited with their parents - around 3,000.