The Trump administration said early Thursday that officials have reunited 57 of 103 young migrant children with their parents after separations of weeks or months, but would not return another 46 children for reasons that range from concerns about their safety to their parents having been deported.
The administration said in a statement that 57 children were reunified as of Thursday morning.
The administration is nonetheless contending with a deadline of 26 July to reunite all of the more than 2,000 children who were separated from parents this spring and summer.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt sought assurances from the government on Monday (Tuesday NZT) that advocates would be in position to guide parents when they are released in a foreign land. "These are firm deadlines", he said. The children were "absolutely thrilled to be with their parents again".
They remained apart for two months, with Pulex in detention in El Paso and her daughter sent to live with a foster family in MI.
"Tomorrow there will hopefully be more than 50 babies and toddlers reunited with their parents, and that is obviously an enormous victory", he said. "Accordingly, by the end of the day we will decide what remedies to recommend to the court for the non-compliance", Gelernt said.
Albence, though, maintained that all of those parents agreed to be deported without their child.
Sarah Fabian, a Justice Department lawyer, said of the original 102 children under age 5 identified as potentially separated from their parents, only 75 turned out to be eligible for reunification.
At least one child being held in an immigrant detention center after being taken from their family may actually be a USA citizen - and the government has lost track of their parents, court filings show. In court earlier this week, officials said it is possible that one young child held in federal custody for more than a year is a US citizen.
The operation of facilities, like the one at Tornillo, "is a necessary and prudent step to ensure that the Border Patrol can continue its vital national security mission to prevent illegal migration, trafficking, and protect the borders of the United States", said Darcie Johnston, Director at the office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, in a letter to Texas State Sen. Speaking outside the White House before flying to Europe, Trump said: "Well, I have a solution. Apply lawfully and wait your turn", they said in their joint statement. In doing so, the government declared its efforts to reunite "eligible children" in that age group complete.
The policy that triggered the separations was clear enough: prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally, which meant taking away the kids, who can not be put in criminal detention with adults. "This is real progress and I'm optimistic that many of these families will be reunited tomorrow, and then we'll have a very clear understanding as to who has not been reunited, why not, and what time-frame will be in place".
"If in fact 57 children have been reunited because of the lawsuit, we could not be more happy for those families". She also said that an order to release the parents was outside of the court's jurisdiction.
"Our staff came in early, made sure every backpack was full and every child got a hug and a goodbye", Juan Sánchez, the non-profit group's president and chief executive, said in a statement.
Kay Bellor, vice-president for programs at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which provides foster care to migrant children, said she witnessed the reunion Wednesday of a 3-year-old and his father in the Washington, D.C., area.