Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabien said that while only two children out of the 102 the government has identified have been reunited so far, she believes another 54 can be returned to their parents by Tuesday's deadline.
The Tuesday deadline is in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union which won an injunction last month to speed up the reunification of migrant families that were separated under the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy at the border.
Depending on background checks, the number of young children reunited with their parents by Tuesday could rise to 59, Fabian told U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw at a hearing Monday morning.
The Justice Department has asked for more time to reunite parents - or to be excused from reuniting those who are deemed unfit parents - but Sabraw did not immediately rule on that request Monday. The ACLU contends that there may be more separated children that the government has not counted.
The case includes a broader group of thousands of other children and parents, but the hearing focused largely on the pressing deadline for the children under 5.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday there were "under 3,000" children separated from their parents.
For the other parents, I think there just hasn't been enough of an effort made to locate the parent.
One there is no information on the parent. In the courtroom, they expressed openness to collaborating on several issues, including searching for parents who have been removed from the USA and double-checking the criminal records.
Sabraw declined on Friday to grant the government an extension but indicated he might be willing to do so if officials provided the court and the ACLU with a detailed list of the children and status of their reunification.
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So it looks like the system is in place to bring more and more players through the pipeline, that can continue this surge. On the memes and celebrations : "I think a lot of the guys, like me, they've switched off to it".
I have seen prior reunifications and it is heartbreaking to see the parents and child come together.
That's only about half of the 100 or so infants and toddlers covered by the order.
"This is real progress, I'm optimistic that many of these families will be reunited tomorrow", he told the courtroom.
The other problem is the government is using a very lengthy, cumbersome reunification process that was designed for children who were genuinely unaccompanied and are being given to someone coming forward to claim them, rather than this situation where the child was forcibly taken from the parent.
"The government must reunite them", the judge said. Pacific Time on Tuesday to hear the Trump administration's final list of "groups of parents that will fall into category where it is impossible to reunite by tomorrow".
As the government awaits the court's Monday decision on whether or not the timeline for family reunification will be extended, time is of the essence: doctors have repeatedly warned that being separated from parents for even short periods of time can cause symptoms of toxic stress in children, which can derail healthy emotional development.
"There's no question that the parties are meeting and conferring", she said.
Additionally, Gelernt took issue with the Trump administration's claim that it has lost track both of parents who have been released by ICE within the US pending their immigration or asylum hearings and at least nine parents who it deported without their children.
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