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Border & Immigration

Judge Overseeing Reunification Of Immigrant Children "Encouraged" By Government Efforts

A child from Honduras is brought to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, July 10, 2018.
Associated Press
A child from Honduras is brought to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, July 10, 2018.

A federal judge overseeing the reunification of children separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration said Friday he is "very encouraged" everything is being done to locate parents who were either deported or released into the United States.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw applauded efforts by the government to provide contact information for 343 parents who are no longer in the country. The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a class-action lawsuit seeking reunification of children with their parents, said it has been able to contact 212 of those parents.

"It's very encouraging (that) everything is being done to locate these parents," the judge said.

He said efforts on the ground in countries in Central America — where many of the deported parents ended up — are "productive."

RELATED: San Diego Federal Judge Approves Ongoing Reunification Plan, With One Exception

ACLU attorneys noted in court papers that nearly all of the deported parents they have been able to reach said they want to be reunited with their children, rather than leaving them to seek asylum on their own in the United States.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott Stewart told the judge the government is working to find parents who were separated from their children and released back into the United States.

"The government is totally committed to reuniting families," Stewart said.

According to a weekly updated filed by the government this week, there are still 528 children still in government custody after being separated from parents at the border. Nearly two dozen of them are under age 5.

The government's effort to reunify parents with their children is being headed up by key members of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State and Department of Health and Human Services.

RELATED: Judge To Get Update On Government's Plan To Reunify Separated Families

The ACLU formed a steering committee to coordinate the location and reunification of class members who have been deported or released into the interior of the United States.

Earlier this month, Sabraw said finding parents and reuniting them with their children was "100 percent the responsibility of the (Trump) administration."

Last week, Sabraw extended a freeze on deporting newly reunited immigrant families, giving children a chance to seek their own asylum.

Another status conference on the San Diego case is set for next Friday.