By ELLIOT SPAGAT and NOMAAN MERCHANT, SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Trump administration said Thursday that it has reunified 364 children ages 5 and older with their families after they were separated at the border, still leaving hundreds to go before a court-imposed deadline a week away.
The Justice Department reaffirmed in a court filing that it has identified 2,551 children who may be covered by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw’s order. More than 900 are either “not eligible or not yet known to the eligible,” the vast majority of them undergoing evaluation to verify parentage and ensure the children are safe.
ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said he was concerned about the high number of children who have not been cleared for reunification.
The administration and the American Civil Liberties Union are due back in court Friday for the fifth time in two weeks as the judge holds tightly to a July 26 deadline for all children to be reunified. He set an earlier deadline of July 10 for dozens of children under 5.
The government has identified eight U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement locations to reunify children 5 and older, and people have been getting released throughout the Southwest this week.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are taking the lead on helping families that have been released into the U.S. The faith-based groups provide food, clothing, legal aid and often money for a bus or a plane ticket, usually for them to join relatives across the country.
Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, has served dozens of families. The shelter’s director, Ruben Garcia, said “the actual reunification process is a logistical nightmare.”
On Monday, the judge put a temporary hold on deporting parents while the government prepares a response to the ACLU’s request for parents to have at least one week to decide whether to pursue asylum in the U.S. after they are reunited with their children.
Merchant reported from Houston.