Trump Administration Tells Judge It's Lost Track Of Some Migrant Parents A federal judge in San Diego has ordered the federal government to reunite thousands of migrant children separated from their parents by Thursday — but hundreds will be waiting longer than that.

Law

Trump Administration Tells Judge It's Lost Track Of Some Migrant Parents

Trump Administration Tells Judge It's Lost Track Of Some Migrant Parents

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/632183431/632183432" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A federal judge in San Diego has ordered the federal government to reunite thousands of migrant children separated from their parents by Thursday — but hundreds will be waiting longer than that.

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Trump administration is one day away from a major deadline. A federal judge has ordered the government to reunite thousands of migrant children with their parents by Thursday. They were separated as part of the Trump administration's zero-tolerance crackdown at the U.S.-Mexico border. As Julie Small with member station KQED reports, hundreds will be waiting a lot longer than that.

JULIE SMALL, BYLINE: U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw expects the government to reunite a total of 1,637 children with their parents by the deadline. At a packed courtroom hearing Tuesday in San Diego, he called the government's efforts thus far a, quote, "remarkable achievement." But Sabraw also said the government must do more to find hundreds of parents they've been unable to locate so far. Sabraw said the large number of parents who are unaccounted for - over 400 have either been deported or agreed to leave the country - are a, quote, "deeply troubling reality of this case." There has to be an accounting, he said. On the courthouse steps after the hearing, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt said the judge is right.

LEE GELERNT: The government says maybe some of them voluntarily agreed, but until we speak to them, we have no idea what happened with these parents and why they left their children behind. We are hearing and we suspect that many of them will have been misled or coerced into leaving without their children.

SMALL: James Chavez, a federal defender in San Diego, says one father he represented was so desperate to be reunited with his 5-year-old daughter that he returned to Guatemala without her because officials told him going home would be the fastest way to get his daughter back.

JAMES CHAVEZ: They needed somebody who was related to the daughter to be back in Guatemala to send proof of that relationship, to send proof of her nationality and to send a letter saying that they wanted the daughter to be returned.

SMALL: Chavez says the government had all those documents within a couple weeks. Months after being separated, the father is in Guatemala, and his daughter is still in New York.

CHAVEZ: My client is now thousands of miles away from his daughter because he was led to believe that that would be the fastest way to be reunited with his daughter.

SMALL: More than 900 parents may not be reunited with their children by this week's deadline. That's because they either waived reunification, had a criminal record, were outside the U.S. or were still being evaluated. The judge has said the court will address those cases next. In the meantime, Sabraw ordered the government to provide the names of all parents not yet located, as well as names and locations of families who've been reunited but are facing deportation. The ACLU's Gelernt says they need to know all that to make sure people can meet with attorneys and understand their rights.

GELERNT: And so that's been critical. It also makes it hard for us to help find parents if we don't have information about who they can't find.

SMALL: The judge is expected to rule later this week on whether to uphold a temporary restraining order that prohibits the government from immediately deporting reunited families. For NPR News, I'm Julie Small.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOULAR ORDER'S "COMING HOME")

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.