By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) – Lawyers for the U.S. government will return to a San Diego courtroom on Monday to update a judge about Trump administration plans for meeting a July 26 deadline to reunite as many as 2,500 immigrant children with their parents after separating them at the U.S.-Mexican border.
The hearing before U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw will be the first since the judge chastised the government on Friday for asserting that pressure from the court to expedite reunifications could put children at risk.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has custody of the children, has since submitted a fuller plan for reuniting families by the deadline.
The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties union to challenge a policy of President Donald Trump’s administration to separate families as part of a broader crackdown on illegal immigration. The president ordered the practice stopped on June 20 after widespread public outcry.
Many of the immigrants separated from their children were seeking asylum after fleeing violence and crime in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Children were sent to multiple care facilities across the country, and their parents were incarcerated in immigration detention centers or federal prisons.
Sabraw ordered that children should be returned to their parents and is overseeing the process.
The government failed to meet its first court-imposed deadline of July 6 for reuniting all children under 5 with their families, about 100 in total. With virtually all of the approximately 60 children under 5 deemed eligible for reunification now back with their families, attention has turned to those aged 5 to 17.
A government plan filed with the court on Sunday calls for the Health Department to move the children to eight locations operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in coming days, possibly requiring round-the-clock hours, according to an operation plan submitted to the judge.
ICE and the Office of Refugee Resettlement will verify parentage and screen adults to weed out those with serious criminal backgrounds or other issues that could endanger children.
Once verification is complete, parents and children will be reunited.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)