All eligible youngest immigrant children reunited with families, says US


The struggle to track and match parents with children under 5 suggests the government may have more difficulties in meeting a July 26 deadline for reuniting the remaining 2,000 older children with adults from whom they were separated.

The Department of Health and Human Services referred to figures released on Tuesday, when the Trump administration said four children were reunited and at least 34 more would be by the end of the day, about half of the total in that group.

But lawyers said in court that the government may try to detain parents and older children after they are reunited later this month, in an effort to continue Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy of criminally charging and jailing all adults who cross the border illegally, including those who request asylum or are crossing with children, which is a departure from the past.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Lee Gelernt, whose organisation filed the lawsuit that forced the administration's hand, said he was "both thrilled and disappointed" with the government's work on the deadline.

"Throughout the reunification process our goal has been the well-being of the children and returning them to a safe environment", HHS Secretary Alex Azar, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a joint statement. "These are firm deadlines", he said.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that some young children who have been reunited with their parents no longer recognize them. Seven were not determined to be a parent, one had a false birth certificate, one had allegedly abused the child. "Accordingly, by the end of the day we will decide what remedies to recommend to the court for the non-compliance", Gelernt said.

Officials say 57 of the 103 children separated at the US-Mexico border were returned to parents as of Thursday.

The administration was under a court mandate to reunify families separated between early May and June 20, when President Donald Trump signed an executive order that stopped separations.

"Each step of our process is necessary to protect children", HHS official Chris Meekins, chief of staff in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, told reporters on a press call.

Before departing the White House for Europe, Trump said, "That's the solution".

A judge ordered the government last month to stop splitting up families at the border, which happened with increased frequency under a zero tolerance policy for illegal immigration enacted earlier this year. The ACLU claims that the government initially provided incomplete information about the children. The families will be released after they are reunited.

Such testing, they said, is usually reserved for circumstances in which there are questions about the relationship between the parent and child.

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.

Monday's hearing set the stage for a dramatic day of reunifications on Tuesday across the country, though they are likely to occur largely outside public view.

Jennye Mariel Pagoada Lopez, 24, said one night she got so sick that a fellow detainee was forced to scream and wave at a security camera to get her help - but the officials who arrived still refused to get her to a doctor, despite her heavy bleeding. "It is the government's intention to have all 3,000 children through that process by July 26".

Immigration authorities brought Gisela to Arizona about three days ago and the two were reunited Tuesday.

Catholic Charities, which helped place some of the children in shelter facilities after their separation, held a news briefing in NY at which a handful of the reunited parents expressed relief after weeks of anxiety over the separations.

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