HHS: About 100 children under 5 to be reunited with parents next week

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About 100 children under the age of 5 will be reunited with their families next week after getting separated by authorities at the U.S. border, officials said Thursday. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must reunite the children under 5 by Tuesday to comply with a court order handed down last month. 

{mosads}HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters the agency is using DNA testing to verify that children are related to the people claiming to be their parents. 

The agency will also comply with the July 26 deadline to reunite those ages 5 to 17. 

Still, Azar expressed frustration with the “extreme” court order, arguing that it does not give the government enough time to vet parents. 

“We will comply with the artificial deadline created by the court. That deadline was not informed by the process needed to vet parents, including confirming parentage as well as determining the suitability of placement with that parent,” Azar said. 

“In order to meet the court’s deadline, HHS had to narrow its focus from the comprehensive review for the safety and suitability of sponsors, that is based on standard child welfare protection procedures, to a more expedited process.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called Azar’s comments “incomprehensible” in a statement released on Thursday. 

“When the government wants to marshal its resources to separate families, it has shown that it can do it quickly and efficiently, but when told to reunite families, it somehow finds it too difficult and cumbersome to accomplish,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s immigrants’ rights project.

The Trump administration faced bipartisan backlash to its “zero tolerance” border policy, which resulted in the separation of adults and children who crossed the border illegally. Although President Trump signed an executive order ending the separations, hundreds of families remain divided and prosecutions continue.

Tags Donald Trump HHS Illegal immigration United States Department of Health and Human Services zero tolerance immigration policy
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