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One in three separated children not reunited by court-ordered deadline

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Posted at 7:04 PM, Jul 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-26 19:04:09-04

As a court-ordered deadline to reunite all families the Trump administration separated at the border elapsed, one in three children still remained away from their parents, with no clear indication when they would be reunited.

According to a court filing, the government has reunited 1,442 families with children aged 5 and older by late Thursday. The government says an additional 378 children have already been released under “appropriate circumstances,” according to the court filing. That includes children released to another family member or friend who can care for them, children who were released to parents already out of government custody and those who have turned 18.

But there are more than 700 children still left in government custody, unable to be reunited with their parents any time soon.

The deadline marks the closing of one chapter of the case, in which US District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ruled the government’s practice of separating families for weeks and months at a time was inhumane and unconstitutional.

But the hard work was in many ways just beginning, as the government has offered no timeline for tracking down the hundreds of parents who remain unaccounted for — a large number of whom are likely to have already been deported to their home countries with no easy way to get in touch with them.

The government declared the deadline met, saying the remaining 711 families were ineligible — either because they had red flags that prevent reunification or because they could not be located in time for the deadline.

That number included 120 children whose parents declined to be reunited, 21 children whose parents had red flags in their background checks, 46 children who had a parent with a red flag for another reason, 79 children whose parents were released from government custody into the US and could not be reunited, 431 children with parents who are no longer in the US, likely those who were deported. Another 94 children had parents whose locations were under review and 7 children were impacted by a separate court case. The number does not add up to 711 because of some overlap, though the filing didn’t specify where the overlaps occurred.

“The reunification plan outlined to the Court … is proceeding, and is expected to result in the reunification of all class members found eligible for reunification at this time by the Court’s July 26, 2018 deadline,” the government declared in the filing.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit, said earlier Thursday that they did not believe the deadline was met.

“I think it’s accurate to say they didn’t meet the deadline, the only deadline they met is their self-defined deadline,” ACLU lead attorney Lee Gelernt said in a call with reporters, blaming an “inhumane” policy in the first place for creating the problem. “The government shouldn’t be proud of the work they’re doing in separation. … This is a disaster that they created.”