Reunited immigrant children scooped up into parents’ arms


Late last month, US District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a 14-day deadline to reunite children under 5 with their parents and a 30-day deadline for older children.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is arguing the case on behalf of the parents, said that success rate wasn't good enough.

On June 26, Sabraw, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, set a Tuesday deadline for reuniting children under 5 with their families and a July 26 deadline for reunification of about 3,000 children over age 5. "It's all confusing to them why there's so many people here and why there's so many strangers here, but they know that they're safe", Valdes said outside the ICE offices.

The other 46 children were ineligible for reunification for various reasons, including that their parents had criminal histories, were in custody or had been deported, as well as for health reasons, the government said.

That chaos was underscored on Tuesday by the government's struggle to comply with the court order in San Diego to reunite children under the age of five with their families. Those children and their parents, Fabian said, will be released from custody instead of being held in family detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In Tuesday's filing, administration lawyers stated that a remaining 27 children were not eligible for reunification with a parent and were therefore not subject to the court-mandated reunification deadline.

"I've asked the government for numbers and they should have told me by now", he told Reuters. Fabian said two of those children have already been reunited, and another 54 will be reunited by Tuesday.

Gelernt told the judge in recent hearings he was concerned that some parents may have opted to leave the United States, believing that was the only way they could be reunited with their children. On June 27, she finally made contact with her children and has been given weekly visitation rights.

Tornillo, about 50 miles southeast of El Paso, now houses more than 350 immigrant minors, including 16 children who were separated from their parents after they were apprehended at the border, said Rodriguez, who toured the facility Friday along with state Rep. Lina Ortega. "They are not aspirational goals", said the judge.

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The three fathers were "just holding them and hugging them and telling them that everything was fine and that they were never going to be separated again", immigration lawyer Abril Valdes said.

Gelernt added that the child never should have landed in the custody of immigration officials.

One Honduran father had been warned by border agents that his child would be taken away, and had been given an opportunity to explain to his son what would happen.

"Our clients still have not been reunified!" said Beth Krause, an attorney with Legal Aid Society's Immigrant Youth Project, in an email to Reuters.

"There's no question that the parties are meeting and conferring", she said.

In trying to meet the first deadline, the government began with a list of 102 children potentially eligible to be reunited and whittled that to 75 through screening that included DNA testing done by swabbing the inside of the cheek.

Rights advocates have blamed the USA government's poor technology for difficulties tracking children across multiple government agencies involved in their detention and care.