Judge praises administration on reunifications

Judge praises administration on reunifications
© Screenshot/ABC News

A federal judge who has criticized the Trump administration's tardiness in reuniting families separated at the border offered praise during a status hearing on Friday after 450 children between the ages of 5 and 17 were reunited with their parents. 

“The reunifications are happening very rapidly, which is good. A big block will be reunified in a timely manner,”U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said. “It really does appear there’s been great progress.”

The administration said last week that it had identified 2,551 immigrant children in custody who had potentially been separated from their families at the border.


In a late Thursday court filing, officials said 1,606 of those children— about 60 percent— were eligible to be reunited with their parents. 

Those who are not eligible include children whose parents have criminal records, who have waived their right to be unified with their children or who should not be reconnected for other reasons. 

Even with the the progress, the administration must still work to reunited 1,150 children with their parents less than a week before a court-mandated deadline.

“The numbers are growing each day significantly but there’s a lot of work left to do to get this done,” Justice Department attorney August Flentje said, predicting “some complicated issues arising in the next week” with cases where it will be difficult to track down the remaining parents.  

Officials with the Health and Human Services Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have interviewed and cleared 954 parents who soon could be united with their children, government attorneys said Friday.

They said those reunifications are expected to occur quickly.

The court proceeding followed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the administration's zero tolerance border policy, which had led to the separations.

As part of that lawsuit, the ACLU is questioning whether some parents who the government says are ineligible to be reunited with their children are still n the country.

Government attorneys on Friday said that 136 parents have waived their right to be reunified with their children.

There have been reports that parents who were deported without their children signed papers waiving their rights without knowing what they were signing.

“We had hoped to talk to each of them about whether they were fully aware about what is going on when they made the momentous decision never to see their child again,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.

President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt MORE signed an executive order last month to end the controversial practice of separating migrant children from their parents as the adults await prosecution, and the administration has been scrambling to reunite them by the court-mandated July 26 deadline.