By ELLIOT SPAGAT, SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge on Friday commended Trump administration efforts to reunify young children and families separated at the border but also said he plans to watch closely as a deadline approaches involving older children.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said at a hearing in San Diego that the government has demonstrated good faith and largely complied with a deadline this week to reunite families with children under 5.
At the same time, he indicated he will be monitoring the administration’s actions ahead of a July 26 deadline to reunite more than 2,500 older children with their families.
The judge said the administration must provide a list of names of parents in immigration custody and their children by Monday and complete background checks for them by Thursday.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the separated families, has said the administration failed to meet last Tuesday’s deadline to reunify dozens of children under 5 with their families and should therefore be closely watched as the next deadline approaches.
The administration disputed that characterization, saying it reunified all 58 children under 5 who were eligible and that it complied with the judge’s order.
It acknowledged that 19 of the 58 children were reunified Wednesday and one came on Thursday — after the deadline — “for logistical reasons specific to each case.”
The administration filed a plan Friday saying it would immediately begin reuniting the older children with their families.
Those reunions were expected to begin “on a rolling basis” leading to the deadline, according to the Justice Department. The reunifications will occur at six to eight unspecified locations determined by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The government said it was using “truncated” procedures to verify parentage and perform background checks involving 2,551 children.
Officials said they were concerned the process threatened child safety but noted it was adopting the shorter procedure to comply with court orders.
Friday’s hearing was the fourth in eight days on the issue, a sign of how closely Sabraw is monitoring the process and ruling quickly on any disputes. He scheduled four more hearings for updates over the next two weeks, including one Monday.
“There will be a lot of interaction and a lot of opportunity to raise these issues, whatever may come along as we go,” he said.
Late last month, Sabraw, an appointee of President George W. Bush, gave the administration 14 days to reunify children under 5 and 30 days to reunify children 5 and older.
The ACLU said in a joint court filing Thursday that it wants the administration to deliver a list of all children 5 and older by Monday to “ensure that reunification plans are not formulated haphazardly at the last minute.”
The administration initially provided a list of about 100 under-5 children who were believed eligible for reunification by this week’s deadline but whittled it down to less than 60 by Thursday.
It said parents of 11 children were excluded for their criminal histories and seven turned out not to be parents. Others were determined to be a danger to the child.
(File-In this July 10, 2018, file photo, Ever Reyes Mejia, of Honduras, carries his son to a vehicle after being reunited and released by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Grand Rapids, Mich. With one deadline behind, a federal judge in San Diego will consider Friday, July 13, 2018, how closely to monitor the Trump administration as it faces a bigger deadline ahead on reunifying families separated at the border. AP Photo-Paul Sancya)