Judge rejects blanket delay to reunite children at border
07 July, 2018, 08:51 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
Azar said DNA testing is being used to speed up matching parents and children.
On a conference call, officials from HHS said they expect approximately half of the roughly 100 children under the age of five to be reunited with their parents by Tuesday, the deadline imposed by Judge Sabraw in a decision last week.
"We have to protect children from people who would prey on them", he said.
Earlier this week, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it had ordered DNA tests on some 3,000 children in an effort to reunite migrant families.
The administration has matched 86 parents to 83 children and 16 are not yet matched, Fabian said.
HHS had previously reported that it had 2,047 children from separated families in its care.
Azar said HHS is now tasked with reuniting almost 3,000 children with their parents because the court deadline includes children separated before the zero-tolerance policy went into effect. Associated Press/Jacquelyn Martin The lack of those identification numbers became a major issue after the children were placed in the custody of the Health and Human Services department and flown to shelters across the country.
"Given the possibility of false claims of parentage, confirming parentage is critical to ensure that children are returned to their parents, not to potential traffickers", the motion says.
Lawyers for the agency argue that meeting an upcoming July 10 court-mandated deadline to reunite children under age 5 and a subsequent deadline to reunite the almost 3,000 remaining children later this month would be hard.
Government agencies are deploying field teams to swab cheeks of children and adults in government custody and using outside laboratories for DNA testing to verify family members, according to the government's court papers.
"Because the Flores Agreement does not require the release of parents, and Ms. L requires DHS to keep parents and children together when the parents are in detention, the rulings work together to permit detention of parents with their minor children with whom they are apprehended", the DOJ argued.
"We will comply [with the court] even if those deadlines prevent us from conducting a standard or even a truncated vetting process", Mr Azar said.
The case is Ms. L et al v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement et al, 18-cv-428, U.S District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).
Only about 101 children under age five are in the care of Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to the government.
However, Azar warned that entire families may remain in the custody of immigration authorities for extended periods, even those who are claiming asylum.
But after separating thousands of children absent that finding, the government is now making the opposite argument - that they must clear a high bar, that it claims the court set in its order, by proving the parents are not risky or unfit before reunification can happen.
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