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More Than 300 Older Children Split At Border Are Reunited

Ever Reyes Mejia, of Honduras, carries his son to a vehicle after being reunited and released by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, July 10, 2018.
Associated Press
Ever Reyes Mejia, of Honduras, carries his son to a vehicle after being reunited and released by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, July 10, 2018.
More Than 300 Older Children Split At Border Are Reunited
More Than 300 Older Children Split At Border Are Reunited GUEST: Bianca Bruno, reporter, Courthouse News

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Friday July 20th. Our top story on Midday edition. Government attorneys say the court ordered reunifications of migrant children separated from their parents are quote proceeding. A hearing scheduled for this afternoon in San Diego was hoping to find out what exactly that means. So far the Trump administration has only reunited a fraction of the children 5 and older that the court has said must be reunited with their parents by next Thursday. Joining me is Reporter Bianca Bruno of courthouse news. Bianca welcome. Thank you. How many of these kids has the government said it's reunited with their parents. So so far just over 300 364 family reunifications have taken place for kids over five that were separated from their parents. And that's out of over 2500 kids that are required by a court order by a San Diego federal court judge to be reunited with their parents by next Thursday. So there's quite a lot of work that needs to be done in the next few days. What does the government say is slowing down the process. I think it's just a matter of all these different agencies involved sort of needing to communicate and share information with each other. So that was something that was discussed at a court hearing this week on Monday. Really this man with Health and Human Services really detailed kind of all that's going into vetting the parents making sure that they are who they say they are. They're looking at birth certificates for the kids under five which a deadline passed a couple weeks ago. They were doing DNA tests. But really the Federal Court judge in San Diego is holding the government's feet to the fire. He's told them there are no excuses to miss their deadline. It's a hard deadline. They really need to make it happen by next week. There are also 908 parents who the government's has said are not eligible or not yet eligible for reunification. What would make them ineligible. So mostly it's a concern over criminal records and whether they're really who they say are they are whether they are really a child's parent. And so only so far 91 of those parents have been deemed ineligible due to a criminal record with something like child abuse or sexual assault. So really I think at this point it means most of them just need further vetting whether they need to get more government documents or do more interviews or something like that. But they are among that bigger group of parents for these kids over five and how many parents are there in total. I think there's a little over 2100. Meanwhile the Government has missed the earlier deadline to reunite kids under 5 with their parents. Has the government finished reuniting all those families or all those eligible families. Well there was some concern raised yesterday by the ACLU in this sort of status update what the court in a court filing that was made last night and they are concerned about for the parents that were deemed ineligible to be reunited with their kids. The government apparently hasn't provided details of of that information. So for the parents who they say there is a criminal record that makes them unfit and they're unsafe to be around those kids. They haven't provided the details of that. And then for the parents that they say are not truly a parent the parentage was an issue that was raised. The details of that haven't been provided either. And so the ACLU is asking the court to order the government to basically dot the T's and crossed your eyes on that. Judge Dana sobre who's administering this. He also ruled that there should be at least a seven day delay between reunification and deportation. What's the reason for that. So the reason for that is last weekend there were reports that parents were being deported immediately after being reunited with their kids. And the ACLU has said they need time to figure out what their children what the best course of action for them is. Asylum cases are very complicated. You know a whole family might not be granted asylum. A kid might have a case that can be more successful than their parent. And so that the parent might have to decide whether to leave their child behind and asking them to immediately make that decision is unreasonable. So the deportation orders of removal were delayed for a week. That deadline's up on Monday and there will be further court filings over the coming week. Now the ACLU and government lawyers are expected to appear back in court in San Diego later this afternoon. What can we expect from that. So the government is supposed to give an update on parents who have been deported without their kids. The ACLU is very concerned that there is no plan in place to reunite those parents with these kids. They are also concerned about hundreds of parents who have been released from ice so they're out in the community. They weren't necessarily removed but it appears that they're not. They haven't kept track of those parents and helped them communicate with their children. So for that deadline next week for reuniting all these parents with their kids over five. If the government doesn't meet that deadline I think it's likely going to be because of these parents who've been deported and because of parents who've been removed from custody. And we just don't know where they are. I've been speaking with reporter Bianca Bruno from Courthouse News. Thank you so much.

The Trump administration said Thursday that it has reunified 364 children ages 5 and older with their families after they were separated at the border, still leaving hundreds to go before a court-imposed deadline a week away.

The Justice Department reaffirmed in a court filing that it has identified 2,551 children who may be covered by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw's order. More than 900 are either "not eligible or not yet known to the eligible," the vast majority of them undergoing evaluation to verify parentage and ensure the children are safe.

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said he was concerned about the high number of children who have not been cleared for reunification.

The administration and the American Civil Liberties Union are due back in court Friday for the fifth time in two weeks as the judge holds tightly to a July 26 deadline for all children to be reunified. He set an earlier deadline of July 10 for dozens of children under 5.

RELATED: Immigrant Children Describe Hunger And Cold In Detention

The government has identified eight U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement locations to reunify children 5 and older, and people have been getting released throughout the Southwest this week.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are taking the lead on helping families that have been released into the U.S. The faith-based groups provide food, clothing, legal aid and often money for a bus or a plane ticket, usually for them to join relatives across the country.

Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, has served dozens of families. The shelter's director, Ruben Garcia, said "the actual reunification process is a logistical nightmare."

On Monday, the judge put a temporary hold on deporting parents while the government prepares a response to the ACLU's request for parents to have at least one week to decide whether to pursue asylum in the U.S. after they are reunited with their children.