and ANITA SNOW
SAN DIEGO - The Trump administration said Thursday that more than 1,800 children 5 years and older had been reunited with parents or sponsors hours before the deadline. That included 1,442 children who were returned to parents who were in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, and another 378 who were released under a variety of other circumstances.
But about 700 more remain separated, including 431 whose parents were deported, officials say. Those reunions take more time, effort and paperwork as authorities fly children back to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
On Friday morning, Homeland Security officials said they had reunified all eligible parents with children - but noted many others were not eligible because they have been released from immigration custody, are in their home countries or chose not to be reunited.
Updated figures were not made public, but new data was expected to be released Friday at a court hearing in San Diego held by the judge overseeing the reunification process.
“The administration will continue to make every effort to reunify eligible adults with their children,” a Homeland Security statement said.
Now the federal judge in San Diego who ordered the reunifications must decide how to address the hundreds of still-separated children whose parents have been deported, as well as how much time, if any, reunified parents should be allowed to file asylum claims.
Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union representing separated parents, said Thursday it was unclear how long it might take to find the parents returned to their homelands. “I think it’s just going to be really hard detective work and hopefully we’re going to find them,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw will also consider the ACLU’s request to give reunified parents at least a week to consider if they wish to seek asylum. The government opposes the waiting period, and Sabraw has put a hold on deporting reunified families while the issue is decided.
The federal government was supposed to reunify more than 2,500 children who were separated from their parents under a new immigration policy designed to deter immigrants from coming here illegally, but the policy backfired amid global outrage over crying children taken from their parents.