Family Reunification Deadline Approaches
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There is is a major deadline coming up this week for the Trump administration. A federal judge has ordered it to reunite the migrant children separated from their families by Thursday. NPR's Merrit Kennedy checks in on the government's progress.
MERRIT KENNEDY, BYLINE: The Trump administration says it is working as expeditiously as possible to meet the federal judge's deadline to reunite children ages 5 to 17 with their families. There are more than 2,550 kids in this group according to the government. Department of Justice lawyers said Friday that 450 have been reunited so far. As of Thursday, there were more than 600 families that needed to be evaluated before the government can determine whether they're even eligible for a reunion.
LEE GELERNT: That is a lot of families that still need further evaluation, so we very much hope the government has a plan to get that done.
KENNEDY: The ACLU's Lee Gelernt is the lead attorney challenging the Trump administration over family separation.
GELERNT: I think the biggest challenge going forward is to make sure the government does the evaluations very quickly.
KENNEDY: The administration has criticized the deadlines imposed by the judge. Officials say they're not able to complete their usual vetting process. Still, they've said repeatedly in court that they're acting in good faith to get it done. Here's Gelernt.
GELERNT: The truth is they just need to do it. They made this mess. They need to clean it up. The government should not be asking for applause to clean up the mess they made.
MARTIN: This is the second deadline for reunification imposed by the federal judge in San Diego. The first, for children under 5, happened earlier this month. Of 103 kids, less than 60 were reunited according to the government. That was for a number of reasons, including safety concerns or determining that the adult is not actually the parent. The ACLU wants more information.
GELERNT: Right now, the government is unilaterally claiming that certain families should not be reunited. We need independent verification before we're willing to accept that these parents should lose their children.
MARTIN: Gelernt says that for the older age group, the kids are being flown to where the parents are, where they're then being reunited at a few central locations. But there are some parents no longer in the country. He says that 12 of the parents of the youngest children are believed to have been deported without their kids. In the older group, he says there could be hundreds more.
Merrit Kennedy, NPR News.
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