Judge to weigh new rules for US reuniting of migrant families

July 13 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday will consider imposing tougher rules on the U.S. government to ensure it reunites as many as 2,000 immigrant children with their parents by July 26.

In a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego had ordered the government in June to reunite families that had been separated after crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.

But the government failed to meet a Tuesday deadline for reuniting an initial group of children under 5.

It said 46 remained separated because of safety concerns, the deportation of their parents, and other issues.

The government has also said reunifications have been slowed by the need for DNA testing and criminal background checks on parents, and to determine their fitness to care for their children.

That has raised questions how the government can reunite the remaining children, a task the judge has called a "significant undertaking."

RELATED: 'Tent city' for immigrant children separated from parents in Texas

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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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Late Thursday, the ACLU urged the judge to impose timelines to avoid further delays or backsliding.

The ACLU said a lack of information about where and when reunions would happen posed dangers for families. It said that in one case, immigration officials left a reunited mother and 6-month-old daughter at a bus stop late at night.

Concerns are not limited to families with small children.

One mother, Isabela was reunited on Thursday with her 17-year-old daughter in Brownsville, Texas, after 43 days apart.

This followed their arrests for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, after a more than monthlong journey from El Salvador.

"They took the children from us without any explanation," said Isabela, who asked that only her first name be used. "I felt I had lost her, that I could not find her."

Isabela faces a July 26 date in immigration court. "I really hope this sacrifice was worth it," she said.

Sabraw will consider the next steps for the government at a hearing on Friday at 1 p.m. PDT (2000 GMT) in San Diego.

The Trump administration adopted its family separation policy as part of an effort to discourage illegal immigration. It buckled to intense political pressure and abandoned the policy on June 20.

(Reporting by Tom Hals; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Jonathan Oatis)

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