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Officials Race To Meet Deadline To Re-Unite Migrant Children With Parents

Jul 6, 2018
Originally published on July 6, 2018 6:21 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

The Trump administration has come out with new numbers in its fight against illegal immigration. Numbers for June show an 18 percent drop since May in the number of border apprehensions. Now, this comes as the administration is racing to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite several thousand migrant children with their parents. NPR's Richard Gonzales has the story.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: In a teleconference with reporters, the secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, said that his agency has identified under 3,000 migrant children who were separated from their parents. Of those, about 100 are under the age of 5. But he did not provide more precise numbers.

ALEX AZAR: We do know - and I want to be very clear about this - where every child is. And we know each is being well taken care.

GONZALES: Part of the problem, Azar said, is that officials are consumed with making sure the parents really are parents of the children they claim and that it would be safe to release the children to their care.

AZAR: While I know there's been talk of confusion, again, any confusion is due to a broken immigration system and court orders. It's not here.

GONZALES: A federal judge in San Diego has set deadlines for reuniting the children with their parents. For children under the age of 5, the deadline is next Tuesday. Older children must be reunited by July 26. Yet another federal court has said that children may not be detained for more than 20 days. That could lead to the next legal battle. The administration has asked a judge to allow it to detain children together with their parents indefinitely. Administration critics say there's still plenty of confusion surrounding exactly how families will be reunited. Wendy Young is president of Kids in Need of Defense, a group providing legal aid to the separated minors.

WENDY YOUNG: It seems to us that they implemented the family separation policy, or the zero-tolerance policy, so quickly that they didn't bother to really ensure that they gathered enough information to reunify families later on. So now they're scrambling to work backwards to try and figure that out.

GONZALES: Another court hearing on the administration's plans for the children is scheduled for today. Richard Gonzales, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.