Feds ask for more time to reunite tricky cases from border separations
- Author: Rogelio Becker Jul 08, 2018,
Jul 08, 2018, 2:19
But it said that even though the department "is moving expeditiously to undertake these DNA tests, that process takes meaningful time, even when it is expedited".
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.
By July 6, officials must make sure every separated parent has a way to contact their child.
Children under the age of 5 must be reunited with their parents within 14 days, and the administration has 30 days to reunite children forcibly separated after arriving at the southern border with their parents. CNN first reported that the administration was conducting DNA tests on families in custody, which raised concerns among advocates and lawyers working with migrant families who have been separated.
He added that he believed the complexity of the reunifications was caused by the federal judge's "extreme" deadlines and the USA immigration system itself - not the Trump administration.
The government's request, hours before a scheduled hearing on the issue Friday, marks an abrupt departure from comments made earlier Thursday from President Trump's secretary for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whose agency cares for the children in shelters.
'It's important to remember that information from children can at times be unreliable, ' Azar said. Advocates said the practice has traumatized families. While Health and Human Services vowed to only use the DNA results for verifying parentage, they are sending the cheek swabs to a third-party laboratory service provider to complete the testing. He also said that adults can not be deported from the United States without their children.
We are "confirming that people claiming to be their parents are their parents", Azar said on "America's Newsroom".
Advocates for immigrants have blasted the Trump administration, suggesting officials have created bureaucratic obstacles to delay the reunions.
"Any confusion is due to a broken immigration system and court orders", Azar said.
The government also does not know precisely how many minors age 5 through 18 have been separated from their parents, a process officials called "ongoing", according to the court documents. "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". 'That's the simplest way to avoid this is to follow our laws, respect our border'. The families were separated after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border and being arrested under the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.
And bringing children back together with parents in federal custody is 'not the easiest task, ' Azar said.
Generally, the legal bar for separating children from parents is extremely high, involving a finding that "the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child".
Officials also say that they won't be able to confirm a child's parentage by the deadline if DNA testing is inconclusive.
Some children have been placed with sponsors, usually a family member already in the United States. Others have left the country or were released, Fabian said.