The Trump administration said Thursday it will largely be up to immigrant-rights advocates to track down deported parents who want to be reunited with their children still in the U.S.
"The reality is that for every parent who is not located there will be a permanently orphaned child and that is 100% the responsibility of the administration", said the United States district judge Dana Sabraw in his San Diego court on Friday. Government lawyers said they would need until August 10 to go through the files of the children of those parents to find information that could help in the search.
As roughly two-thirds of the families separated by the administration have been reunited, the focus in an ongoing court case that ordered reunifications has turned to the more hard cases - especially the hundreds of parents who were deported to their home countries alone.
The ACLU said in court papers that the government had not followed the judge's orders to provide full information about parents deemed not eligible for reunification, primarily on the basis that they had a criminal past.
The ACLU shot back that they will do whatever they can to help locate the deported parents but asserted that "the Government must bear the ultimate burden of finding the parents".
Sabraw had ordered on June 26 that all children under five years of age be reunited with their guardians by July 10, and all other children by July 26.
Judge Dana Sabraw will have to settle the dispute, just as he did the reunification plans for about 2,500 children separated from parents because of immigration enforcement.
The development comes about a week after the deadline for the government to reunite separated families passed.
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About 1,900 of those children have been reconnected with family members so far, but hundreds remain incarcerated. Government attorneys stated in court that the ACLU should instead perform the task as they have considerable networks to do so. Hundreds still remain apart, however, mainly because many of those parents are outside the country. Sabraw said that plan was not acceptable and placed that responsibility squarely on the government. The ACLU has asked that families have at least a week to decide if they want to seek asylum after they are reunited with their children, a step that the administration opposes.
At Friday's hearing, Sabraw said it was it was "100 percent the responsibility of the administration" to reunite those families.
The ACLU as well as other human rights organizations have weighed in stating that it is ridiculous that the US government is not only saying they are not responsible for the fallout of their own child separation policy, but that they are saying they don't have the resources to follow through on the lawful order handed down to them as per USA Today. The Trump administration added, however, that the State Department has made contact with foreign governments to assist in facilitating family reunions.
The efforts to reunify children have been executed under the oversite of Sabraw, who had tough words on Friday for the administration's sluggish efforts to track down deported efforts. The ACLU says the Government is responsible for reuniting them.
Sabraw ordered that the government put someone in charge of the "significant undertaking" to find the adults.
The latest figures show that 34 parents waived the chance to be back together with their children - compared with the 120 that the government reported a week earlier.
The parents and children were separated as part of President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy towards immigration, sparking global outrage as images and recordings of weeping children emerged.