DOJ requests more time to reunite separated migrant families

The Justice Department asked for an extension Friday to a court-imposed deadline for reuniting separated migrant families, arguing that it needs more time to run background checks on each parent.
By Rick Docksai | Nov 24, 2018

The Department of Justice is requesting an extension to comply with a federal judge's order that it reunite the thousands of migrant families that U.S. agents separated at the border. DOJ attorneys argued Friday that the current deadlines do not give their agency enough time to verify and vet every parent.

The court had mandated last week that DOJ release all children under five to their parents by July 10 and return all children ages five and up no later than July 26. But records proving custody for many families are missing or were in some cases destroyed, making reuniting parents and children much more difficult, according to DOJ officials. And some parents have already been deported and thus are harder to reach, the officials added.

"The government does not wish to unnecessarily delay reunification," lawyers for the Justice Department said in their response to the court, according to NBC. "At the same time, however, the government has a strong interest in ensuring that any release of a child from government custody occurs in a manner that ensures the safety of the child."

The vetting process became a higher priority after revelations in 2016 that the U.S. government mistakenly handed dozens of detained migrant children over to human traffickers. These concerns resurfaced earlier this year, when Health and Human Services admitted that it had lost contact with the adult guardians of around 1,500 children that it had released from custody.

Robert Guadian, a top official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a sworn declaration that background checks on the current caseload of separated families have flagged some parents for domestic violence, drug abuse, and other crimes that would force them to lose custody. U.S. officials still have around 1,400 more background checks to run, he added.


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