As US struggles to reunify migrant families, judge extends deadline

A federal judge has agreed to extend Tuesday's deadline for the government to reunite 102 migrant children under the age of five who were separated from their parents under President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy.

SEE ALSO: DNA tests for separated families slammed by immigration advocates

Judge Dana Sabraw asked government attorneys to provide an update by Tuesday morning on which children will be reunited and who will require more time deliver a proposed timeline for reuniting the remaining children with their parents.

During the conference in federal court in San Diego, Sabraw said he recognized that some cases "will necessitate additional time."

Sarah Fabian, at attorney for the Justice Department, said she expects 54 out of 102 children will be reunited with their parents tomorrow.

The government requested a deadline extension on Friday, telling Sabraw it would only be able to reunite about half of the children by the court's first deadline of Tuesday because it could not locate many of the parents.

On Monday, Fabian said nine of the parents have been deported and nine have been released, making them more difficult to track down. Other parents have criminal records that will keep them from being reunited, Fabian said.

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'Tent city' for immigrant children separated from parents in Texas
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'Tent city' for immigrant children separated from parents in Texas
Raymondville, UNITED STATES: A futuristic USD 65 million tent city designed to hold about 2,000 illegal immigrants is pictured 10 April 2006 in Raymondville, Texas. The newly-constructed barbed-wire enclosed camp in the Rio Grande Valley will hold illegal immigrants for weeks to years until they can be returned to their home countires by US officials. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are shown walking in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are shown walking in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. Picture taken June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The inside of a dormitory at the Tornillo facility, a shelter for children of detained migrants, is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in Tornillo, Texas, U.S., June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS Picture taken June 14, 2018. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, walk in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are shown walking in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The Tornillo facility, a shelter for children of detained migrants, is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in Tornillo, Texas, U.S., June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS Picture taken June 14, 2018. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents by the Department of Homeland Security next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are shown walking in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The Tornillo facility, a shelter for children of detained migrants, is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in Tornillo, Texas, U.S., June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS Picture taken June 14, 2018. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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The government's difficulty in reuniting migrant children with their parents has caused outrage among immigration and child welfare advocates who warned against separation.

Between May 7 and June 20, U.S. Customs and Border Protection was instructed to prosecute any adult immigrant caught crossing the border illegally, thereby sending parents to federal custody while children were taken into the care of U.S. Health and Human Services.

The agency has said nearly 3,000 children need to be reunited as a result of Sabraw's order that all children separated from their parents be reunited, even those who were taken before the policy went into place. Health and Human Services HS Secretary Alex Azar said the agency is searching for parents through various government databases.

"The way [a family separation] is put in the system is not in some aggregable form, so we can't just run it all," Fabian told Sabraw on Friday.

On Saturday, at Sabraw's request, the government provided a list of the 101 children under age 5 who said they had been separated from their parents by Border Patrol, along with any information on their parent's whereabouts.

Lee Gelernt, an attorney representing the ACLU in the case, said the government had taken "significant steps" in the last 48 hours.

 

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