A federal judge in San Diego just threw a lifeline to the federal government’s scrambled efforts to reunite immigrant children with their parents. Judge Dana Sabraw on Monday gave the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services extended his deadline for the government to reunite dozens of immigrant children under age 5 with their parents.
At the hearing, Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian conceded that the government would only be able to reunite 54 small children out of an initial list of 102 by the Tuesday evening deadline. The children had been separated because of the Trump administration’s short-lived family separation policy.
On June 27, Sabraw ruled that the Trump administration had to reunite all the children who it had separated from their parents in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Sabraw gave the government two weeks to reunite parents with children under 5, and a month to reunite parents with children over 5. But instead of enforcing the deadline, Sabraw gave the government more time to comply with it.
Fabian cited a host of issues barring the government from reuniting children and parents: Some parents have been convicted of serious crimes, some have already been deported, some have been released into the United States and the government can’t find them, some are in criminal custody and in one child’s case, the government still can’t identify a parent.
Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who has helmed the case, told The Daily Beast he was disappointed by the day’s outcome.
“For the individuals who are not in criminal custody, we’re extremely disappointed,” he said. “But at this point, as I said in court, we are where we are.”
Immigration attorneys and advocates have long feared the government would struggle to reunite the families it separated. Federal public defender Chris Carlin told The Daily Beast in June that there was “a real possibility” some children will never be reunited with their parents, especially children whose parents were deported without them.