US Seeking to Delay Reuniting Immigrant Children With Parents

Unaccompanied minors are seen at a facility in Bristow Virginia on June 21. 

More than 2,000 children in all were separated from their parents by USA immigration authorities at the border this spring before President Donald Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an worldwide outcry and said families should remain together.

LabCorp, one of the largest providers of DNA testing to prove parentage, said it is not involved in the current testing of immigrant parents and children.

The judge in that case has ordered that children under age 5 be reunited with their parents by Tuesday, and that all minors separated from their parents be reunited by July 26.

The humanitarian crisis caused by Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy has resulted in thousands of young children being separated from their parents at the border and relocated to hastily constructed and poorly managed prison camps around the country.

"We want to ensure that we can reunite children who have been separated from their families as expeditiously as possible", wrote Representative Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, and Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat.

That bitterly ironic details isn't the worst of what's going on with the adjudication of the child-separation situation on the border.

The ACLU also contested the government's assertion that only nine parents have been deported while their children remain in custody, saying they believe the number is 12. Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an worldwide outcry, saying families should remain together.

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Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian said officials have now identified 102 children in that age group and would return at least 54 of them to their parents by Tuesday.

Jonathan White, a Health and Human Services official, filed a declaration with the court that gives what is perhaps the most detailed account yet of what the government is doing and the hurdles it faces. The deadline to reunite all other children with their parents is July 26.

The department has manually reviewed the cases of all 11,800 children in its custody by working nights and weekends, White said.

The government is using DNA testing to verify that parents are related to the children they claim.

"The government does not wish to unnecessarily delay reunifications or burden class members", the Justice Department said in its motion. In a statement, an administration official said its priority was "to ensure the safety of the children in its custody".

Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer arguing the case on behalf of separated parents, said countless private lawyers and other organizations have offered up their services to help speed the reunification process. She represents a Guatemalan woman who had an emotional reunion with her 8-year-old daughter this week after being separated for 55 days. His mother, Olivia Caceres, sought asylum weeks later and - after enduring one bureaucratic hurdle after another, including a DNA test - was reunited with her son almost three months after he was taken away. Her son was also sent to a Chicago shelter the two recently reunited.

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