The Trump administration has still not reunited over 500 migrant children with their parents after separating families at the border in recent months, according to a court filing on Thursday.
In a status report, the government’s lawyers said that 528 children remained in government-contracted shelters without their parents as of Aug. 20 ― nearly a month after the court-ordered July 26 deadline to reunify separated families.
Of the children still separated from their parents, 23 were under age 5. And 343 had parents who were no longer in the U.S. ― because they had been deported, a government official said previously.
Responding to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of separated migrant parents, the Trump administration said earlier this month that the ACLU should use its “considerable resources and their network of law firms, NGOs, volunteers, and others” to locate parents who had been deported or released. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw later said in a conference call that the onus was squarely on the Trump administration.
“All of this is the result of the government’s separation, and then inability and failure to track and reunite,” the judge said at the time. “And for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanently orphaned child, and that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration.”
In June, Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to reunite the more than 2,500 migrant children whom officials had taken from their parents as a result of Trump’s hard-line zero tolerance policy on immigration.
By the time of the July 26 deadline, there were still more than 700 children in shelters whose parents had been deemed ineligible for reunification, either because they’d been deported, had failed a background check or had yet to be located.
“The government shouldn’t be proud of the work they’re doing on reunification,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told reporters at the time. “It should just be, ‘We created this cruel, unconstitutional, inhumane policy. Now we’re trying to fix it in every way we can and make these families whole.’ Not, ‘We’re proud we’re doing the reunifications,’ as if they’re showing up to fix some natural disaster. This is a disaster that they created.”