Trump Administration Seeks More Time To Reunify Migrant Families

Unaccompanied minors are seen at a facility in Bristow Virginia on June 21. 

The government is using DNA testing to verify that parents are related to the children they claim.

The court gave a July 10 reunification deadline for children under the age of five, and a deadline of July 26 for all other children.

"We have to protect children from people who would prey on them", he said.

Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said that almost 3,000 separated children remained in the government's care, about 100 of whom were younger than 5.

"The safety and security is paramount and that it is not uncommon for children to be trafficked or smuggled by those claiming to be parents".

Previously, Azar and department officials had set the number at just more than 2,000.

But during a Thursday call with reporters, Azar said that although HHS officials were working "overtime" to vet parents and ensure that the children in the agency's custody end up where they belong, none of the children with family members who are being held in federal custody have actually been reunited to date.

The Department of Health and Human Services "knows the identity and location of every minor in the care of our grantees, and HHS is executing on our mission even with the constraints handed down by the courts", he said. The Trump administration in a court filing late Thursday night requested further guidance from the court on reuniting the families, saying the government may need more time in certain cases. The government admitted today in court that "they can not locate the parents of 38 migrant children under the age of 5".

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But due to those missing records, the Health and Human Services department has been plunged into a chaotic process to determine which children were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border, and which arrived in the country unaccompanied.

The motion will be discussed with U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw and attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union - which requested the injunction as part of a class-action lawsuit - during a telephonic status conference at noon today.

The Trump administration also argues in its filing that it can't meet the deadline for parents who have already been deported. "We are operating under a court order that forbids the DHS from holding family units together for longer than 20 days". In addition to DNA testing to verify parentage, the government said it would need to perform a criminal history check, and has reviewed 300 adults with about 1,400 more to go.

Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an global outcry, saying families should remain together.

The latest information we have was provided to CNN by a U.S. government source: a map showing that the 2,047 separated unaccompanied minors who were in custody of the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement as of June 25 were scattered across 16 states.

Hours before a hearing Friday in San Diego, the Justice Department filed papers seeking an extension of the July 10 deadline to reunite all parents with children under 5 and the July 26 deadline to reunite everyone else.

Of the 101 children under 5, about half are in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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