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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Ten-year-old Diego Magalhaes kisses his mother, Sirley Silveira, an immigrant from Brazil seeking asylum with him, after Diego was released from immigration detention Thursday in Chicago.

Saturday, July 07, 2018 1:00 am

Judge rejects blanket delay to reunite children at border

Associated Press

Also

Poll reflects mixed views on border

Americans overwhelmingly oppose the Trump administration's now-rescinded policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, and smaller majorities also disagree with the president's call to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to restrict legal immigration by limiting citizens from bringing parents and siblings to this country, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll.

On other aspects of the immigration debate, however, a more mixed picture emerges. Americans are more closely divided on the question of whether enough is being done to prevent illegal immigration and whether the country has gone too far in welcoming immigrants. Also, more people say they trust President Donald Trump than congressional Democrats to deal with the issue of border security. The support for Trump on the border security issue is especially evident in congressional districts considered key battlegrounds in this fall's midterm elections.

– Washington Post

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

The administration said it needed more time to reunite 101 children under 5 years old to ensure the children's safety and to confirm their parental relationships.

“There's always going to be tension between a fast release and a safe release,” said Sarah Fabian, a Justice Department attorney.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the administration to share a list of the 101 children with the American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully sued to force the reunions, by Saturday afternoon. The two sides will try to determine over the weekend which cases merit a delay in an effort to present a unified front in court on Monday morning.

“The government must reunite them,” the judge said. “It must comply with the time frame unless there is an articulable reason.”

The administration has matched 86 parents to 83 children, and 16 are not yet matched, Fabian said.

The deadline is July 10 for parents with children under 5 and July 26 for everyone else.

More than 2,000 children were separated from their parents after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in May that the zero tolerance policy was in full effect, even if it meant splitting families. While parents were criminally prosecuted, children were placed in custody of the Health and Human Services Department.

Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an international outcry from opponents who said families should remain together.

On Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said fewer than 3,000 children are believed to have been separated, but that includes kids who may have lost parents along the journey, not just parents who were detained at the border.

If DNA testing is inconclusive, officials said in a court filing, they won't be able to confirm a child's parentage by the deadline. They will need more time to collect DNA samples or other evidence from parents who have been released from government custody.

About half of the parents of the 101 children are in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Others have left the country or were released, Fabian said. She said it has been more difficult to reunite children when parents are outside government custody.

The judge, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, set the deadline last week, writing that the “situation has reached a crisis level” and that the “chaotic circumstances” were of the government's own making.

Jonathan White, a Health and Human Services official, filed a declaration with the court that gives perhaps the most detailed account yet of what the government is doing and the hurdles it faces. Its database has some information about the children's parents but was not designed to reunify families by the court's deadline.

The department has manually reviewed the cases of all 11,800 children in its custody by working nights and weekends, White said. The results of that review are being validated.

DNA cheek swab tests on parent and child take nearly a week to complete, said White, who called the risk of placing children with adults who aren't their parents “a real and significant child welfare concern.”

“The Government does not wish to unnecessarily delay reunifications or burden class members,” the Justice Department filing reads. “At the same time, however, the Government has a strong interest in ensuring that any release of a child from Government custody occurs in a manner that ensures the safety of that child.”