The Latest: Government's DNA testing turns up surprises
Jul. 10, 2018
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Latest on a court deadline for the Trump administration to reunify parents and children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border (all times local):
The U.S. government's DNA testing of migrant families separated at the Southwest border has turned up some surprises.
A Health and Human Services official said Tuesday that in two cases adults who thought they were parents of a child were determined not to be by DNA testing.
Chris Meekins is helping to direct the court-ordered family reunifications of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. He says the adults "may not realize they're not the biological parent."
It was unclear how the surprises would be dealt with.
The government is using DNA testing - done by swabbing inside the cheek - along with documentation such as birth certificates and passports to reunite children with parents.
The Trump administration is defending its rigorous screening of migrant parents whose children were taken from them at the border, saying it has found eight parents with serious criminal histories, five adults who were found by DNA testing not to be parents of the children, and one case of credible child abuse.
That adds up to 14 cases out of the 102 children under the age of five who a judge had ordered reunited by Tuesday.
"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.
Meekins said 34 children are expected to be reunited Tuesday.
The Trump administration says 75 children under 5 years old are covered by a court order that requires them to be reunited with their parents by Tuesday after being separated at the border under its zero-tolerance policy on illegally entering the country.
The Justice Department says in a court filing Tuesday that 34 parents are expected to be reunified Tuesday and possibly another 16, depending on whether authorities can confirm they are the parents. Four have already been reunited and a criminal background check is pending on the parent of one child.
That leaves 20 children who will not be reunited by the deadline.
The administration says 12 of those parents have been deported and eight have been previously released in the United States.
A federal judge in Chicago says the government must reunite two immigrant fathers from Brazil with their sons within 72 hours.
But the Chicago Sun-Times reports Tuesday that they all remain in detention and it's unknown how reunification might happen.
Judge Edmond Chang's Monday order says the "insistence" on keeping the parents and boys apart was "conscience-shocking." He said that the boys are suffering "irreparable" mental harm. One told his father by phone: "Dad, I'm never going to see you again."
A family lawyer says she hopes authorities release the fathers and sons, letting them stay in the U.S. until their asylum requests are processed.
Officials detained the fathers in New Mexico and Texas in May. The fathers were traveling with their sons to the U.S. The 9-year-old and 16-year-old boys are in Chicago shelters.
The nonprofit that is housing many of the young immigrant children being reunited with parents around the country says the kids are excited to be on their way to their families.
Southwest Key CEO Juan Sanchez says the group's staff came in early and "made sure every backpack was full and every child got a hug and a goodbye."
The government is under a court-ordered Tuesday deadline to reunify children under the age of 5 with their parents Tuesday. More than 50 of these reunions are happening, but hundreds remain separated from their families as a result of President Donald Trump's zero tolerance immigration policy.
Southwest Key is based in Texas and operates across the country.
The legal services group RAICES says it's going to offer $20 million to post the bonds of all immigrant women separated from their children.
The San Antonio, Texas,-based group said in a statement Tuesday that it wanted the U.S. government to release from custody every parent detained under the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy. At least 2,000 children separated from their parents are being held in government shelters.
More than 50 children under the age of 5 are expected to be reunited with their parents Tuesday, under a court-ordered deadline.
RAICES says immigration bonds typically cost between $5,000 and $10,000, though immigration authorities don't grant bonds to everyone they detain. It has raised more than $20 million through a Facebook fundraiser titled, "Reunite an immigrant parent with their child."
Dozens of immigrant children will be released from detention centers and reunited with their parents Tuesday.
A government lawyer says at least 54 children under the age of 5 would join their parents by Tuesday's court-ordered deadline. That's only about half the 100 or so children covered by the order.
More than 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the border and sent to shelters across the country while their parents were charged criminally for illegal entry.
President Trump ended the zero-tolerance policy that resulted in family separations amid an international outcry.
The parents will be free while their cases wind through immigration court and may be required to wear ankle monitors.
A federal judge Monday rejected the federal government's efforts to detain immigrant families in long-term facilities.