The Justice Department on Friday requested an extension to reunite migrant families who were separated by the Trump administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy, NBC News reports.
A federal judge originally set a deadline to reunite children under age 5 with their parents by July 10, and set a July 26 deadline for all other children, but DOJ attorneys are now arguing that the mandate didn't allow enough time for the government to identify and vet each parent. There are nearly 3,000 children currently in government custody, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.
Attorneys say they need to account for the possibility of inconclusive DNA tests, and allow time to ensure that parents are fit to care for their children. "The government does not wish to unnecessarily delay reunification," the DOJ argued. "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."
Since some parents have already been deported without their children, the DOJ is requesting permission to exclude them from the group of migrants who must be reunited with their families, reports NBC News. Alternatively, attorneys suggested, the judge could allow the DOJ to shorten its vetting process. Some of the records of migrant children "have disappeared" or have been "destroyed," The New York Times reported Thursday, making the reunification process even more challenging. Read more at NBC News. Summer Meza