A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Trump administration to abide by an order to reunite dozens of children with their parents by the end of the day, turning down a Department of Justice request for more time.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the administration to reunite nearly 3,000 children separated by federal immigration agents, asked an attorney for the ACLU to prepare a proposal for possible punishment if the government misses Tuesday’s deadline to reunite the first round of families.
“These are firm deadlines,” Sabraw said. “They’re not aspirational goals.”
Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian said DNA tests that are being conducted on 16 parents and children to confirm they are indeed related could stretch into Wednesday. Sabraw didn’t budge.
“They need to respond,” he said. “They need to be…aware of the deadlines. I expect these tasks would be provided today.”
The government faces two deadlines to reunite families that were separated by immigration agents, most under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that went into full effect in recent months.
All children under age 5 must be reunited by Tuesday, a group that includes about 100 children. Sabraw concluded that 63 of those must be reunited by Tuesday. The others have more complicated cases, including parents who may pose a threat to their child, those in state and federal prisons facing non-immigration, criminal charges, and 12 who have been removed from the country.
All other minors — close to 3,000 of them — must then be reunited by July 26.
Sabraw said he was encouraged to see the work done by various federal agencies who have been involved in detaining and reuniting parents and children who are spread out around the country. But he made clear that those deadlines will remain.
The only area where Sabraw provided some wiggle room for the administration is in cases where the parent has been deported. He said those families must be reunited under his order, but acknowledged that those reunifications will take some time. He said he will lay out a plan for those reunions in the days to come.
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