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Feds Race to Reunify Immigrant Families Separated at Border to Meet Court-Imposed Deadline

The Trump administration and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are at odds over whether the government has met Thursday’s court-imposed deadline to reunify nearly 2,600 children separated from parents apprehended at the border. Government lawyers contend they are on track to reunify more than 1,600 children with parents the government has deemed eligible for reunification by midnight.

But an ACLU attorney on Thursday blasted the Trump administration for excluding 914 parents from the list of deemed eligible for reunification, including as many as 463 parents who may have already been deported without their children, and several hundred others who may have mistakenly waived reunification either because they were pressured by the government or they didn’t understand what they were doing.

I think it’s accurate to say they didn’t meet the deadline. The only deadline they met was their self-defined deadline,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Retired Federal Judges Offer to Help Immigration Case Backlog

The number of pending cases in U.S. immigration courts hit a record high this year and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. With more than 700,000 open cases as of May, judges face a heavy case load. To alleviate the burden, two retired federal judges have proposed a solution: bring jurists like them back to the bench.

We certainly have the expertise. We’ve handled heavy dockets of cases and we’re accustomed with having to get up to speed very quickly in various areas of the law,” retired U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said.

We are aware that at this time there are extraordinary burdens and backlogs faced every day by the country’s immigration judges, particularly along the southern border. We believe retired federal judges are a valuable untapped resource who could be called into service to assist in handling the immigration caseload fairly and efficiently,” the pair wrote in a letter dated July 12.

Retired judges have been vetted before so the process for obtaining security clearances wouldn’t take as long as it would for new appointees, the letter said. And because federal judges receive an annuity from the government, they could potentially “volunteer” their time without drawing a salary, Patel added.

The Number of Parents Who Were Deported Without Their Children Keeps Growing

The parents of as many as 468 children, who were separated from their mothers and fathers at the border, were deported by the Trump administration, according to statistics made public in a San Diego court hearing, and now U.S. authorities must figure out how to reunite them, or whether to reunite them at all.

Authorities also must find the parents of 43 children who apparently were released into the United States, but whose whereabouts the government has lost track of, more testimony to the lack of record-keeping that has plagued the Trump administration’s family separation crisis from the beginning.

Those numbers were made public in court at a hearing in San Diego. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott Stewart told the court that the number of parents outside of the U.S. doesn’t necessarily include only those who were deported without their kids. But his answer also was a reminder that U.S. officials simply don’t know; Stewart at first used the number 431 for how many children had parents who were outside the country but later in the hearing, he said the number had risen to 468.