Trump Administration Says 46 Separated Migrant Children Under 5 Won't Be Reunited With Parents

The Trump administration said it has completed its reunification process of separated migrant children under the age of 5, with 46 deemed ineligible to be reunited with their parents.

Having admitted it was not going to be able to comply with the original court-ordered deadline to reunite all children under the age of 5 with their families separated at the border by July 10, the government said 57 of the 103 children who were in custody of Health and Human Services (HHS) have now been returned to their parents.

The remaining 46 were acknowledged by the District Court for the Southern District of California as being ineligible for reunification, as determined by HHS, Homeland Security and the Justice Department, under court-approved criteria.

A total of 22 children were ruled ineligible due to safety concerns posed by the adults in question.

These include seven adults who were found not to be the child’s parent, one adult who was alleged to have abused the child, one adult who was allegedly planning to house the child with a suspected child sex offender, and 11 adults who have a serious criminal history such as kidnapping, murder, or domestic violence.

The remaining 25 children could not be reunited due to the circumstances of their parents, including 12 adults who have already been deported and are being contacted, and nine adults who are in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service for other offenses.

GettyImages-986370582 Young migrant boys, whose faces cannot be shown, are seen at the Customs and Border Protection Facility in Tucson, Arizona, during a visit by first lady Melania Trump on June 28. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

“Throughout the reunification process our goal has been the well-being of the children and returning them to a safe environment,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a joint statement.

“Our agencies’ careful vetting procedures helped prevent the reunification of children with an alleged murderer, an adult convicted of child cruelty, and adults determined not to be the parent of the child. Of course, there remains a tremendous amount of hard work and similar obstacles facing our teams in reuniting the remaining families.

“The Trump administration does not approach this mission lightly, and we intend to continue our good faith efforts to reunify families. Certain facts remain: The American people gave this administration a mandate to end the lawlessness at the border, and President Trump is keeping his promise to do exactly that.

“Our message has been clear all along: Do not risk your own life or the life of your child by attempting to enter the United States illegally. Apply lawfully and wait your turn.”

The administration was heavily criticized for its now-suspended “zero tolerance” immigration policy which saw more than 2,500 children separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border in the space of two months.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) previously said the government is only on track to reunite less than half of the children aged under 5 by the deadline.

"If in fact 57 children have been reunited because of the lawsuit, we could not be more happy for those families," said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. 

"But make no mistake about it: The government missed the deadline even for these 57 children. Accordingly, by the end of the day we will decide what remedies to recommend to the court for the non-compliance."

The administration has also been ordered to reunite children aged between 5 and 17 by July 26.

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