Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the U.S. District Court in San Diego had set a deadline of Tuesday for the youngest children to be returned, but government lawyers said Monday that of 102 such children now in government custody, authorities have been able to identify, locate and vet the parents of only 54.
In every one of those cases the government will then immediately release the illegal immigrant families out into the communities, Ms.
As for the last of the 102, Fabian said, "We're still trying to track down what information we have about that parent".
As the government awaits the court's Monday decision on whether or not the timeline for family reunification will be extended, time is of the essence: doctors have repeatedly warned that being separated from parents for even short periods of time can cause symptoms of toxic stress in children, which can derail healthy emotional development.
A court-imposed deadline to reunite immigrant children under five with their parents by July 10th will likely not be met.
Still, despite the frustrations and delays, Sabraw sounded a positive note, suggesting that he would be inclined to extend the July 10 deadline given the work that Fabian presented Monday.
As for most of the rest of the under-5 children who have yet to reunited with their families, Fabian said that their parents have already been released into the United States, have been deported, or are behind bars on criminal charges.More news: Trump picks conservative Kavanaugh as US Supreme Court nominee
Four children were identified for release to a sponsor other than their mother or father, but the government and ACLU are working to determine whether the parent wants them to be reunited instead, the government attorney said.
"The judge made it very clear he wasn't going to allow the Trump administration to drag its feet on reunifying these children with their parents", Gelernt said. That group must be reunited by Tuesday under a deadline Sabraw set two weeks ago, when he first ordered the government to put the families back together. "We have agreed it is best to not talk publicly about location too much for the safety of children, to ensure the orderly and safe release for everyone". For children, the trauma of being separated from their parents will be long-lasting. As noted above, we do not know exactly how many children were separated from their families or how many have rejoined them. Yet in a disturbing investigation published Monday, BuzzFeed News has found that to not be the case, detailing the stories of several women who say they were ignored, roughly handled, shackled around the belly, and denied urgent medical care - even as they were miscarrying their children. The numbers were revealed during a court hearing between the government and the American Civil Liberties Union, which secured Sabraw's preliminary injunction requiring family reunification last month.
Eight have parents who are in federal criminal custody.
As daunting as the process appeared in court, this week's deadline concerns less than 5 percent of the children separated from their parents in recent months. Some parents of children under 5 were already deported, presenting an extra challenge for reunification.
A number of children can not be released to their parents, either because the parents were released from custody into the United States or deported or because the parents are serving criminal sentences.
"The kids are all over the country", said ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt.
He scheduled another hearing for Tuesday morning to get further updates on the reunifications, which he ordered as part of a class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU. That number is higher than other estimates presented by the government by up to 1,000 children.