In a court filing released on Tuesday, U.S. officials admit they may have taken a child away from a U.S. citizen at the southern border. To make matters worse, they have been unable to locate the parent for over a year.
Tuesday marked the federal judge-ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunite all 102 children under the age of five with their parents. The order is the first step in reunification following Trump’s executive order that ended the family separating policy at the border, but failed to reunite the thousands of children with their parents. The administration missed the deadline and only guaranteed the reunification of 38 children. As for the 64 children who remain in custody, the administration provided a list of excuses that includes reasons behind the failure to reunify 64 of the children, such as eight “parents had serious criminal history” or one “parent detained in ICE custody is currently being treated for a communicable disease.” However, one of the families on the list stands out:
1 child cannot be reunified at this time because the parent’s location has been unknown for more than a year. Defendants are unable to conclusively determine whether the parent is a class member, and records show the parent and child might be U.S. citizens.
The Department of Justice reported their list in a hearing on Tuesday in which they revealed to the American Civil Liberties Union that the missing father, as well as the child, “might be” U.S. citizens. Previously, the DoJ had only informed the ACLU that the father was missing. According to the document, the child is under the age of five and has been held in an ICE detention center for over a year. The DoJ has not provided any more information on the family.
Federal judge Dana Sabraw is in charge of the case, which was originally filed by the ACLU against ICE in March. The original suit sought to reunite a migrant mother and her daughter who had fled violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and were separated at the southern border. Now, the lawsuit has spread into total reunification of all families separated at the border under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy.
The U.S. Health and Human Services patted themselves on the back, despite their failure to reunite the 102 young children by the deadline. HHS Chief of Staff in the Office of Preparedness and Response Chris Meekins told NPR, “HHS is complying with the court order to reunify children separated at the border from their parents. In fact, the judge has praised our progress and the focus on the safety of the children.”
However, Sabraw has not been pleased with the government’s efforts. In fact, he has stated that “the families were improperly separated” in the first place. At Tuesday’s hearing, he said the process is taking too long and needs to be “streamlined.” He went on to say, “I would like the process to progress as expeditiously as possible. That can be done.” Throughout the reunification process, Sabraw has been strict on the government in his attempts to reunite the families. He stated, “These are firm deadlines. They’re not aspirational goals.”
On Tuesday, Trump gave his solution to the family separation and reunification crisis. He told reporters on the White House’s south lawn, “Well I have a solution. Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That’s the solution.” Apparently, the president wasn’t informed that his administration very well may have separated a legal U.S. citizen from his child, a problem to which his “solution” does not apply.
Sabraw has set a final deadline for the government to reunite the 2,000 children who remain in custody with their parents: July 26. He told attorneys that the final deadline will be “a significant undertaking.” Another status conference is set for Friday to check in on the government’s progress.