US says it will release, reunite 50 immigrant children

In a two-hour hearing on Friday, a government attorney said that 19 parents of children under the age of five held in custody had left the US.

He said the ACLU instead wanted a detailed explanation of when all families will be reunited.

Judge Sabraw has scheduled a telephonic status conference for Friday afternoon with lawyers from the Justice Department and also from the American Civil Liberties Union, the group that sued the government in a class-action lawsuit over family separations.

The government had been given a deadline by a Californian judge to produce a list of children under the age of five separated from their families at the border.

"It is very troubling that there are children and parents who are not in some kind of government tracking system", he said after the court hearing.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday there were "under 3,000" children separated from their parents. Releasing a child without a careful review could "expose him or her to trafficking or abuse", he said.

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It's been more than a week since they released a tally of how many kids from separated families remain in government custody. Government officials had to work overtime to determine which children it took from which parents, and as of last week, they were unsure of the exact number that needed to be reunited.

In Friday's legal request - the government asked for more time and clarification on if their current process for confirming parentage is consistent with the court's mandate and "seeks clarification that in cases where parentage can not be confirmed quickly, HHS will not be in violation of the Court's order if reunification occurs outside of the timelines provided by the Court".

Sabraw has also ordered the government to reunite almost 3,000 children five and older with their parents by July 26.

During the June 27th ruling, the Judge stated that "Measures were not in place to provide for communication between governmental agencies responsible for detaining parents and those responsible for housing children, or to provide for ready communication between separated parents and children". But since June 26, they've refused to specify how many kids from separated families remain in custody.

Another plaintiff - a Honduran man who crossed the border last month - recently learned that his 12-year-old daughter is housed a 20-minute drive away from him near Los Fresnos, Texas, but federal officials have not allowed them to visit each other. Children five and older must be reunited within 30 days. She said it has been more hard to reunite children when parents are outside government custody. He told the two sides to discuss possible exceptions and report to him Monday.

USA officials on Thursday said that while they believe they're in compliance with "all aspects" of the order, they want the deadlines modified because government agencies - including the Department of Health and Human Services - are following "time-consuming" procedures like weekslong evaluations of homes where the children would be placed. In a statement, an administration official said its priority was "to ensure the safety of the children in its custody".

  • Sonia Alvarado