Facing a looming deadline to reunite of hundreds of migrant families by next week, the Trump administration said Thursday it had found at least 1,606 parents potentially eligible for reunification with their children, but more than 900 may not be at this point.
According to the latest estimates provided in a court filing Thursday, 2,551 children aged between 5 and 17 were separated from their parents at the border, and thus far, 364 from that group have been reunited.
Of the parents the government claims are ineligible for reunification, two are in state or federal custody, 136 “waived” reunification rights when interviewed, 91 had a criminal record or were otherwise deemed ineligible. But, the largest group – mostly likely to cause further questions – are 679 that require “further evaluation.”
Last month, San Diego-based US District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered all children over 5 to be reunited with their parents by July 26, but determining which parents are eligible for a speedy reunification has been a persistent challenge for the Trump administration over the past month.
As a result, the judge ordered the government to provide regular updates to the court and complete any needed parentage verifications for those currently in ICE custody by Thursday, as well as turn over a list of parents in ICE custody who are ineligible for reunification at this point. Those orders are all in the hopes of getting out ahead of any situations that would require further investigation, like those seen in the youngest group of children reunited with parents earlier this month.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued to reunite the families, said Thursday that it had yet to receive “critical” information from the government, including a list of those parents who had been deported or had final removal orders making them eligible for deportation.
“This information is especially critical for parents with removal orders,” ACLU lawyers wrote. “These parents may only have a matter of days to make the momentous decision whether to leave their child behind in the United States.”
As for the 679 parents who require “further evaluation,” Lee Gelernt, the Deputy Director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told CNN: “That’s a very large number but the government as usual has not provided us sufficient information to evaluate these cases.”
The parties will be back in court Friday afternoon.