A USA judge in California on Friday ordered President Donald Trump's administration to pay the costs of reuniting immigrant parents with children separated from them by officials at the U.S. Under the expedited process parents won't be given DNA tests, or be subjected to the same thorough background checks given to the parents of children under 5 years old.
The same judge who praised the Trump administration for its "collaborative" effort to reunite families separated at the border is now saying he's having second thoughts about whether the government is acting in "good faith".
"Safe and timely reunification of class members and their children can, and will, be done by the court's deadline", Sabraw said.
But he said the revised protocols put children "at risk" and would "likely result in the placing of children with adults who falsely claimed to be their parents or into potentially abusive environments". Judge Dana Sabraw said he would consider the request and ordered a hearing for Monday. Officials also said they'll identify between six and eight sites to process the children, though it's unclear if the reunited families will remain detained or be released together.
Thursday's statement from federal agencies said that 12 adults had been deported and "are being contacted".
Some immigrant toddlers are back in the arms of their parents, but others remained in holding facilities away from relatives as federal officials fell short of meeting a court-ordered deadline to reunite dozens of youngsters forcibly separated from their families at the border.
Of the deported parents, officials said they had chosen to leave their children behind. "The reason they don't is the reason they brought the child in the first place was to get the child to the United States". Some parents did not regain custody of their children because the parents had criminal records, were deported before reunions could be effected or for other reasons. Advocates for parents have complained that several of them may not have fully understood the paperwork they were signing when they agreed to their solo deportation. "They have no lawful right to be here".
A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the administration over the family separations, said at the hearing that immigrant parents had been told by immigration officials they had to pay for their travel.
The government missed a deadline this week for getting the youngest of the children back with their parents. Federal officials have been scrambling to reunite the children under a tight, two-week deadline set by the judge. "Accordingly, by the end of the day we will decide what remedies to recommend to the court for the non-compliance".
Trump abandoned the practice on June 20 amid a massive public outcry, and the government is now struggling to reunite the families in time to comply with a court-ordered July 26 deadline.
The Trump administration outlined its reunification plan, saying it intends to process the rest of the children between the ages of 5 and 17, leading up to the July 26th deadline.
On that front, the judge has noted "there is a lot of work to do" on the older group of children and has ordered the Justice Department to provide an update Thursday on how many need to be reunited with parents.
"Our process may not be as quick as some would like, but there is no question it is protecting children", said Chris Meekins, a Health and Human Services Department official helping to direct the process.
"The Court properly called out the government for its attempt to blame this mess on the Judiciary, making it clear that the government no longer seemed to be acting above board", he said in a statement.