The Latest: Judge commends, criticizes family reunifications
Jul. 27, 2018
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Latest on the reunification of families separated at the border (all times local):
A federal judge is commending the Trump administration for reunifying families in immigration custody after they were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border while also faulting it for hundreds of still-separated families outside of government custody.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said Friday in San Diego that the government gets "great credit" for reunifying more than 1,800 children with parents and sponsors. But he says attention must now turn to families who couldn't be reunited because their parents were deported — 431 at latest count.
Sabraw didn't rule on an American Civil Liberties Union request for a one-week waiting period for reunified parents to decide if they want to seek asylum, keeping a temporary halt to deportations in place.
Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, says it has received more than 320 families who had been separated since July 17.
Many came in for less than a day before they're flown out to their intended destinations.
One Friday, one parent, Maria, a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman who was separated from her 4-year-old in mid-June, says her son was well-cared for while he was away. She says he's been his normal self since they were reunited in El Paso on Thursday night.
She spoke anonymously without providing her last name to a reporter because Annunciation House director Ruben Garcia does not allow most shelter residents to disclose that information to protect their safety. He says all shelter residents have fled violence in their home countries.
She says she was elated to be reunited with her son after spending weeks agonizing over him and that she "couldn't live without him."
The U.S. government says it has reunited all eligible families. But hundreds remain separated.
A federal judge in Los Angeles will appoint an independent monitor to evaluate conditions for immigrant children in U.S border facilities.
The decision comes after a spate of reports in Texas of spoiled food, insufficient water and frigid conditions by the youngsters and their parents.
Judge Dolly M. Gee on Friday said she reached her decision after seeing a "disconnect" between government monitors' assessment of conditions in facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and the accounts of more than 200 immigrant children and their parents detailing numerous problems.
The government opposed the monitor until without having a chance to respond to the accounts of children and parents collected by immigrant advocates at facilities in June and July.
Both sides have until Aug. 10 to agree on a proposed monitor. If they can't, each will make suggestions to the judge and she will choose her own.
A federal judge in Seattle says the Trump administration must share certain information about migrant families who were separated at the Mexico border with a group of states suing over the president's immigration policies.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said Friday she wants the Justice Department to give the 17 states, led by Washington, the same information it has turned over to plaintiffs in a related class-action case in San Diego. The states hope to use the information to help locate any separated children within their borders, so as to assist them as needed.
The federal government has been working to reunite the families under orders from the judge in San Diego. Several hundred children have yet to be reunited, in some cases because their parents have been deported without them.
The Justice Department is seeking to have the Seattle case dismissed or transferred to San Diego, saying it would be more efficient.
The 17 states are led by Democratic attorneys general. They include Massachusetts, California, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, plus Washington, D.C.
The Texas Civil Rights Project says it is trying to find out on its own what happened to about 200 people who were separated from their children, one day after the government's deadline to reunite families.
Efren Olivares, a lawyer for the project, said Friday that he's confirmed 76 of the 382 families the group has worked with have been reunited.
Others have been reunited in family detention. According to Olivares, fathers and children are going to one family detention facility in South Texas and mothers and children are going to another.
But there's no information about many others, leaving the group to work with other advocates and consular officials from Central America. Olivares says the group has considered hiring private investigators.
He says: "We are being as creative as we can."
Trump administration officials say they have reunified all parents with their children that they deemed eligible of those who are in immigration custody.
Homeland Security officials said in a statement that officials would continue to work to reunite families who were not able to be reunified.
As of Thursday officials said more than 1,800 children 5 years and older had been reunified with parents or sponsors.
Updated figures were expected to be provided Friday during a hearing before the federal judge in San Diego overseeing the reunifications.
The judge must now decide how to address the hundreds of still-separated children whose parents were deported and how much time, if any, reunified parents should be allowed to file asylum claims.
The Trump administration says more than 1,800 children 5 years and older had been reunited with parents or sponsors hours before the deadline. That includes 1,442 children who were returned to parents in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, and another 378 who were released under a variety of other circumstances.
But officials say about 700 more remain separated, including 431 whose parents were deported. Those reunions take more time, effort and paperwork as children are returned to Central America.
With the court-ordered deadline passed, the federal judge in San Diego who ordered the reunifications must now decide how to address the hundreds of still-separated children whose parents were deported, as well as how much time, if any, reunified parents should be allowed to file asylum claims.