"That's the most pressing group," Sabraw said, according to a transcript of proceedings. "And all efforts have to be made to identify and locate those parents and then to reunify as quickly as possible." The Justice Department said Friday that it had provided a list of 468 migrant parents outside the country to the ACLU, which represents the plaintiffs. A separate group of 35 parents released into the U.S. haven't been located, a DOJ attorney said Friday. Sabraw said that going forward both parties must "devote enormous resources" to the undertaking.
Sabraw praised the Trump administration's efforts to reunify families it deemed "eligible" before a July 26 deadline for children ages 5 to 17. The administration reunited at least 1,442 children with parents who were in custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a court filing last week, while another 378 were connected with parents or sponsors in the U.S. or turned 18 while in custody. The majority of reunited families were released into the U.S., DOJ attorney Scott Stewart said in court.
But 650 children remain separated from their parents, Stewart said. The legal proceedings will now turn to these cases, which include children whose parents were deported and families that the administration deemed ineligible for reunification. Any contested cases will be addressed "on a rolling basis," Sabraw said. The judge said he will require weekly status reports every Thursday and telephonic conferences every Friday until the missing parents are located and other issues are resolved.
Eventually, Sabraw said, the proceedings will develop a protocol for DHS, DOJ and HHS to communicate with one another about separated families. "There has to be a structure in place, because family separation will continue for legitimate reasons," Sabraw said. "There are going to be people who keep coming into the country, and there are going to be apprehensions."
What's next: Sabraw said that he soon will rule on an ACLU motion to delay deportations of reunited parents by seven days to allow them time to decide whether to leave their child in the U.S. The ACLU on Saturday filed an immigration attorney's declaration that alleged some parents may have been coerced into accepting a deportation. Read the transcript of Friday's hearing here.
Related read: "The government has decided that hundreds of immigrant parents are ineligible to be reunited with their kids. Who are they?" from the New Yorker's Jonathan Blitzer. Find it here.