AUSTIN — The federal government doesn’t expect to reunite all the kids under the age of five in its custody with their families by Tuesday’s ordered deadline.
“We’re hearing as of [Sunday] that the government will only be able to reunify only 50 percent of those families that the judge said that they needed to reunify by Tuesday,” Zenen Jaimes Perez, advocacy director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, said.
At Monday’s court hearing, attorneys for the federal government confirmed it would only be able to reunite about half of the 102 kids under five years old by Tuesday, according to the ACLU.
Perez said the Texas Civil Rights Project is watching the reunification timeline and the process closely.
The nonprofit is representing more than 300 clients separated from kids over five years old. There is a July 26 deadline for these families to be reunited.
“From the very beginning, we knew this was going to be a long and drawn out process because we understood that at the moment of separation, the parents and the children would go through two different systems – one through the immigration detention system which is operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the children through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is a different federal department,” Perez said.
On the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website, it says the agency “knows the identity and location of every minor in the care of grantees funded through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.”
It says there are fewer than 3,000 minors who are currently in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s care where HHS has evidence they could possibly have been separated from a parent.
HHS is using DNA testing to connect minors with parents in an expedited manner and is also conducting background checks on parents. The department says two parents were identified in ICE criminal background checks as having criminal histories including charges of child cruelty, rape and kidnapping. It asked for the extension because of this ongoing work.
Out of the clients Texas Civil Rights Project is assisting, five parents were deported without their children and two children were deported without their parents, Perez said.
“We hope that the government still has to reunify those families and we can start that process,” Perez said.
Attorneys will be back in court Tuesday to discuss the reunification process.