The Trump administration needs more time.
The Department of Justice informed a federal judge in San Diego on Friday that the administration is in compliance with an order requiring the end of family separations at the US-Mexico border — but wants more time to reunite kids already ripped from their families after entering the U.S. illegally.
The request comes a day after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar admitted approximately 3,000 children have been taken from their parents at the border.
Ahead of a hearing in federal district court Friday afternoon, the Justice Department laid out challenges in meeting the reunification deadlines of July 10 for children under age 5 and July 26 for children over 5 and said it may request more time.
"The government does not wish to unnecessarily delay reunification," lawyers for the Justice Department said in their response to the court, per NBC News. "At the same time, however, the government has a strong interest in ensuring that any release of a child from government custody occurs in a manner that ensures the safety of the child."
Lawyers for the Trump administration argued it is too difficult to find parents who have already been deported back to their home countries and asked the judge to clarify how many kids it should be seeking to reunite with their families.
Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy regarding border crossings has led to international outrage and fierce criticism as the fate of kids separated from their families remain in limbo.
Azar last month put the number of children separated from their families at just over 2,000. U.S. Customs and Border Protection last month said that roughly 500 children had been given back to their parents. Trump signed an executive order last month putting an end to the separations, after repeatedly saying he had no power to do so.
Health and Human Services is using DNA testing to confirm parentage, which can take time, the government said in court papers.
The Justice Department asked if the court will permit reunification outside of the ordered timelines "in cases where parentage cannot be confirmed quickly."