By Tom Hals
(Reuters) – A federal judge on Friday will consider imposing tougher rules on the U.S. government to ensure it reunites as many as 2,000 immigrant children with their parents by July 26.
In a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered the government in June to reunite families that had been separated after crossing the U.S.-Mexican border. The government failed to meet a Tuesday deadline for reuniting an initial group of children under 5.
About 46 of the 103 children remain separated because of safety concerns, the deportation of their parents and other issues, according to court documents.
The government has said its efforts to reunite families were slowed by the need to conduct DNA testing and criminal background checks on parents and determine if they would provide a safe environment for the child.
That has raised questions how the government will manage with the vastly larger number of children it still must reunite, a task the judge has called a “significant undertaking.”
Late Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit that led to Sabraw’s order, said it wanted the judge to impose timelines on the government for background checks and to share information sooner in the process.
The rights group said that a lack of information about where and when reunions would happen had led to potential dangers for families. In one case, the ACLU said, immigration officials reunited a mother with her 6-month-old daughter then dropped them alone at bus stop late at night.
Sabraw will consider imposing those requirements on the government at a hearing on Friday at 1 p.m. PDT (2000 GMT) in San Diego.
The government adopted its family separation policy as part of a broader effort to discourage illegal immigration earlier this year. The Trump administration buckled to intense political pressure and abandoned the policy in June.
(Reporting by Tom Hals; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)