DHS chief: 'It's certainly our intention' to meet family reunification deadline

DHS chief: 'It's certainly our intention' to meet family reunification deadline
© Greg Nash

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFEMA head to reimburse government for use of federal vehicles: report US to prioritize attacks against foreign adversaries under new cyber strategy Paddlers sue Trump over frequent golf visits shutting down the Potomac River MORE says it's the Trump administration's "intention" to meet a Thursday court-imposed deadline to reunite migrant families separated at the border.

Nielsen told Fox News' Bret Baier in an interview on Tuesday evening that the Department of Homeland Security is "on track" to meet the deadline.

"We are working hand-and-glove with [the Department of Health and Human Services] and it's certainly our intention to reunify all families that are suitable," she said. 

According to the July 26 deadline, DHS is supposed to reunify over 2,000 migrant children who have been separated from their parents at the border due to the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy.

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The Trump administration told the court on Monday that they had reunited or "appropriately discharged" 1,187 of the 2,551 children ages five and older who were forcibly separated from their parents. They also said they have reunited 58 of the 103 children under the age of 5. 

Pressed last Thursday about the July 26 deadline, Nielsen said, "We will do our best, but we will not cut corners." 

The Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents. The policy created a nationwide uproar, with activists and lawmakers calling the practice cruel and unjust.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE signed an order last month ending the practice of separating children from their parents while the adults are prosecuted for illegally crossing the U.S. border.

A court filing on Monday revealed that the Trump administration may have deported more than 450 migrant parents without their children after separating them at the U.S. southern border. 

The Fox News host asked Nielsen how DHS is planning to reunite children with parents that have been deported.

"In part, it’s up to the parents," she said. "If the parents contact us and they would like to be reunited, we of course will work with them, but as you know, as the process works, the parents always have the choice to take the children with them. We’ll continue to work with the court to understand how we can best comply with the order."

Immigration advocates have pushed back on this claim, expressing concern that deported parents waived their rights without knowing what they were signing.

A judge last week ordered a temporary freeze on deportations of reunited families, following a request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).