Lugging little backpacks, smiling immigrant children were scooped up into their parents' arms Tuesday as the Trump administration scrambled to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite dozens of youngsters forcibly separated from their families at the border. And once the mothers are released into the care of a friend, relative or sponsor while their cases are being adjudicated, it makes it easier to reunite them with their children who, as a result of the Flores decision, are not legally allowed to remain with their parents while they are in custody. After reunification, they face a series of other obstacles - including long, complex legal proceedings, and possibly deportation.
Nevertheless, the government, in its Tuesday "Joint Status Report" notes that in at least 14 of the 102 children's cases, they will not be "reuniting" them with parents because the adults in question are either not actually their parents, have been convicted of serious crimes, including rape and murder, or have been credibly accused of child abuse.
"This is real progress and I'm optimistic that many of these families will be reunited tomorrow and we'll have a very clear understanding as to who has not been reunited, why not, and a time frame in place", he said. He also set July 26 as the deadline to reunite almost 3,000 children over age 5. The ACLU claims that the government initially provided incomplete information about the children.
Authorities said in a call with reporters Tuesday that they were performing "due diligence" in reuniting the children and their parents, arguing that the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments are working jointly in an effort to vet and reunite families as quickly and safely as possible. It noted that 20 of those parents were already deported, even though their children remain in USA government custody.
"It's extremely disappointing that the Trump administration looks like it will fail to reunite even half the children under 5 with their parents".
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.
Eight have parents who are in federal criminal custody.
Sabraw did not grant the government's request to extend Tuesday's deadline for returning all children younger than 5, but during the court conference Monday, he said he recognized that some cases "will necessitate additional time".More news: Julia Goerges advances to Wimbledon semi-final to face Serena Williams
Other areas of disagreement include whether fingerprint checks should be run on other adult members of the household and parent participation a legal orientation program should be required before release.
In the likely scenario that the Trump administration is unable to reunite those eligible children with their families by the court-mandated Tuesday night deadline, officials may still have an out.
"The judge has promised to stay on top of it", Gelernt said outside court.
So the Justice Department asked a federal judge to amend a 1997 ruling that children could not be held for more than 20 days while their parents are in court proceedings.
In total, the authorities are holding around 11,800 minors who crossed the border illegally.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt sought assurances from the government on Monday (Tuesday NZT) that advocates would be in position to guide parents when they are released in a foreign land.
He similarly said the government should limit its use of DNA tests to reunite parents and children, following the ACLU's argument that the government was using the tests to delay family reunifications.
Former officials in the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement say its system is accustomed to serving teenagers who arrive in the US alone, often knowing the name of a relative who could potentially sponsor them. The three family detention facilities, two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania, can hold about 3,000 people.