Trump admin wants more time to reunite migrant children with their families

Unaccompanied minors are seen at a facility in Bristow Virginia on June 21. 

A judge on Friday refused to grant the Trump administration a blanket extension of the deadline to reunite children separated from their parents at the border, instead acknowledging that more time may be justified only in specific cases.

At that hearing, Judge Dana Sabraw asked how numerous approximately 100 children under age 5 the government believes could be reunified by the Tuesday deadline. "We would say that DNA is the last resort."(BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM.) Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that almost 3,000 children were in federal custody as a result of family separations meant to deter illegal immigration and that about 100 of them were under age 5.

In a June 26 ruling, US District Judge Dana M. Sabraw in San Diego ordered federal officials to reunite families within 30 days.

Parents of 19 of the 101 detained children under age 5 have been deported, a lawyer for the Justice Department reported Friday, though the government has said it was taking precautions not to deport parents whose children are still in custody. Today marks the deadline for the communication part of the order. The judge didn't buy this argument, and the ACLU denounced the Trump administration's efforts to push back the deadline as a shameful attempt to "further prolong the suffering of these families".

She said the government was still working to do background checks and confirm the relationships between the adults and children in its custody.

At least 54 children are expected to rejoin their parents on Tuesday, the original deadline imposed for reunifying families with kids under age 5, government attorney Sarah Fabian said. The process takes about a week, he said in the declaration, though it can take longer to complete verification.

The states also argued they need to gather testimony from migrant parents and children who are in federal custody and could be moved to different detention centers at any time.

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The ACLU said late Sunday the administration provided it with a list of 102 children under 5 years old and that "appears likely that less than half will be reunited" by Tuesday's deadline.

Children were increasingly separated from their parents after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in May that a zero-tolerance policy on illegally entering the country was in full effect.

"DNA testing is intrusive and makes parents nervous", he said.

Dozens of HHS personnel have spent nights and the weekend manually reviewing the files of the 11,800 children in its care, looking for indication of separation in the records. Ordinarily, the Office of Refugee Resettlement only uses DNA testing as a "last resort", White said.

Additionally, Gelernt took issue with the Trump administration's claim that it has lost track both of parents who have been released by ICE within the USA pending their immigration or asylum hearings and at least nine parents who it deported without their children.

During the hearing the ACLU also accused the Trump administration of missing 10 children in its count of those in its custody aged newborn to five.