Inside the Trump Administration's Chaotic Effort to Reunite Migrant Families

Dana Sabraw and Donald Trump

But almost three months after the family separation policy was formally implemented and exactly 30 days after a federal judge ordered the government to reunite the families it had fragmented in the process, immigration activists and legal aid workers are warning that the ongoing situation at the border remains nothing short of a disaster.

Today is the court-imposed deadline for the Trump administration to reunite children with their families. From here, they'll head to destinations across the country, usually to homes of family members with whom they'll stay.

The government said in the filing that it would provide an updated list Tuesday.

The hearing Friday afternoon - which was more contentious than usual - was the first following the one-month deadline Sabraw had set to reunify the more than 2,500 children age 5 and older separated at the border.

Among those who remain apart from their children is Lourdes de Leon of Guatemala.

"The government is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process, and that's where we go next is identifying and finding those parents who have been removed without children or who are in the interior and not presently located", Judge Dana Sabraw said. Tracking down those parents and reaffirming they in fact do want their child to remain in the United States without them proved hard when the parents numbered one dozen.

What about the families deemed "not eligible" for reunification?

Young said the fight for the children who are ineligible for reunification will continue.

What exactly constitutes a "prohibitive criminal record" for detained parents is a little murky. This is a number that worries immigration attorneys and advocates because these adults may have already been deported.

The government has said the parents already have adequate time to consider their rights, and granting the ACLU request was unwarranted. "And despite the court mandate only a few of those families have been reunited and more than 400 parents have been deported and permanently separated from their children". Others also said the forms were hard to understand due to a language barrier or misinformation from immigration officials.

Some children who had not seen their parents in weeks or months seemed stoic and slow to accept that they would not be abandoned again.

The government has deemed some parents ineligible for reunification because they are now in criminal custody, have criminal records or suffer from communicable diseases.

Other children's chants included "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!" "In South Texas, we've witnessed haphazard reunifications in detention center parking lots at all hours of the day and night".

Government attorneys have told Sabraw they are proud of the round-the-clock reunification effort. "There is a risk that these children will be indefinitely separated from their parents", ACLU wrote. The statement also noted some parents "are not eligible or available for reunification" Friday, including the hundreds who are no longer in the country, some who were released in the United States and haven't yet been located, or those the government declared it had safety concerns about.

"Some of this information is unpleasant", Sabraw said. ACLU wants additional information on this age group as well. If parents do attempt re-entry after deportation they risk arrest, which further hampers their efforts to be reunited with their kids.

Sabraw halted family deportations almost two weeks ago to hear more argument on the issue, and now he expects to rule on it over the weekend.

In Friday's hearing, Judge Sabraw is also expected to settle the disagreement by both parties over the deadline by which families must decide the next steps in the waiting period after they're reunited and before they're readied for deportation. The policy was reversed in late June, and a federal judge in California ordered reunifications by July 26.

The Trump administration said that all 1,442 "eligible" children aged five or above had been returned to their parents and another 378 had been released to sponsors, including other relatives.

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