The Trump administration announced Friday that it would now be speeding up the process of reuniting thousands of migrant children that were separated from their parents at the border. They said they would reunite up to 200 children per day by using a new, expedited process.
In a court filing, for the first time, the administration made clear that they have in custody 2,551 migrant children between the ages of 5 and 17 who had been taken from their parents. Earlier they said they could not give a specific number, but estimated that “under 3,000 children” were separated from their parents.
Trump administration expedites reunifications for 2551 migrant children https://t.co/cy6DZpxHv6
— POLITICO (@politico) July 14, 2018
At a U.S. District Court hearing on Friday in San Diego, Judge Dana Sabraw gave praise to the government for their “substantial” efforts that led to reuniting by the Tuesday deadline more than half of the 103 youngest children who had been separated from their parents.
Sabraw also issued an order requiring the government to use a more orderly process for reuniting the larger group of older children by the July 26th deadline. There had been several reports of glitches in the reunification process for the younger children, such as some people being stranded at bus stations, others being reunited with no advance notice, and others being reunited at odd times, such as the middle of the night.
At Sabraw’s request, the administration agreed to streamline and make easier the process it was using for reunifying the younger migrant children. The government had been using time consuming processes which required fingerprinting and DNA testing to confirm parentage, as well as background searches to check for criminal history.
Sabraw had earlier ordered the government to forgo the DNA testing of all adults and to skip background and fingerprint checks of all residents in the homes where the children will live, unless there a specific safety concern had come to their attention.
Under the new plan that the administration said it began using on Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) now will have six to eight different locations where families can be reunited. Government teams will now be interviewing prospective parents for 15 minutes to confirm parentage and a desire to reunite with the child. After that they will review records to determine if there are any risk factors that may indicate a bad situation for the child who is being reunited.
After they confirm parentage and determine that the child is not at risk, the government will transport the child to wherever the adult is within 48 hours.
Also on Friday Sabraw said he wants the government to pay the travel costs for parents trying to reunite with their children, which had been requested by the ACLU after it was reported that parents were having to pay thousands of dollars in fees and travel costs in order to be reunited with their children.
On Thursday a civil rights group asked a federal judge to order the U.S. government to provide mental health counseling for the immigrant children separated from their parents.