Half Youngest Kids Kept From Families Due To Deportations, 'Safety Concerns'

Less Than Half of The Separated Immigrant Toddlers Will be Reunited By Tomorrow's Deadline

The 32 parents who arrived in the United States from Mexico had faced charges for illegal entry and were to continue with the legal process as they waited to be reunited with their children.

However, almost half - 46 of the 103 children under five - remain separated because of safety concerns, the deportation of their parents and other issues, according to the court document.

In a court filing, ACLU attorneys argued that several federal agencies failed to meet a Tuesday deadline set by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw to reunite the first group of children, those under age 5.

An administration official told Business Insider the number of children was bumped up to 103 from 102 because one parent had initially stated he wanted to leave his child, but changed his mind and was reunited Wednesday night. The new tally comes as part of a class action lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the administration. It should be transparent and easy to do. Immigration attorneys say they already are seeing barriers to those reunifications from a backlog in the processing of fingerprinting of parents to families unable to afford the airfare to fly the child to them - which could run as high as $1,000.

As of Thursday morning, 57 children under the age of five had been reunited with their parents, the Trump administration said in a statement.

Yet the rest of the children were not reunified because of reasons regarding their protection and safety.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it completed the initial reunifications for children under 5 years old. At least three of the adults who were not parents were blood relatives, however - two grandmothers and an uncle. A federal judge ordered the administration to reunify children under 5 years old with their parents by July 10 (a deadline it missed) and the remaining children by July 26. Parents were charged with the misdemeanor crime of crossing the border illegally and jailed for court hearings, while their children were sent to shelters or foster care.

The government has said its efforts to reunite families were slowed by the need to conduct DNA testing and criminal background checks on parents and determine if they would provide a safe environment for the child.

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HHS said it is using a contractor to perform DNA testing "only when there is a specific purported parent-child relationship that needs to be validated".

Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian told the judge that it was a "huge ask" for the government to pay travel costs and that such payments were not in the government's budget.

The reunions - ordered nationwide last month by a federal judge in San Diego - have come in piecemeal tranches this week, as the government has scrambled to pinpoint the children eligible for return to their parents. The judge said he would decide the issue Monday, when another hearing is scheduled in the case. Since their parents' criminal proceedings happened quickly, the children and parents were reunited and transferred together to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS said.

Meekins wrote that he's fully committed to complying with the court's order.

CBP rebuked those claims, saying July 9 that family separations at ports of entries are "very rare, and it's only done under exigent circumstances in order to protect the child and to ensure the wellbeing of the child". A Honduran man strangled himself after officials took his son, and Republicans and Democrats alike criticized the policy.

Two government agencies issued statements that they completed the final reunification at 7 a.m. Thursday.

That included 11 who had criminal records - either charges or convictions - seven who were not the parent but could have been a different relative, one who had a false birth certificate, another accused of child abuse, another who wanted to live in a home with an adult with a criminal history, 12 who were already deported, 11 who are now in state or federal criminal custody, one who cannot be found and one with a contagious disease.

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