US judge applauds government’s ‘significant strides’ to reunite families

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The federal judge overseeing the reunification of 2,500 children separated from their parents by the Trump administration said on Friday that the government had made “significant strides” in its efforts to find deported parents whose children remain in the US, though it still lacks contact details for the relatives of 26 children.

US district judge Dana Sabraw gave a significantly more positive review of the government’s work to bring families back together after last week telling the court he was disappointed by their efforts.

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“It appears the government has made significant strides in contacting and beginning the reunification process of these parents who have been removed and released in the country,” Sabraw said at a hearing in his San Diego courtroom.

Sabraw, who was appointed by George W Bush in 2003, said he was “very encouraged” that of the 386 children whose parents were deported earlier this year, the government has found contact information for 360 of them. Of that group, 299 children’s parents have been contacted in the past week.

Despite the positive tone of the hearing, Sabraw underlined the severity of family separation when discussing the remaining 26 children who the government has still not found contact information for.

“If one looks at it from the way it ought to be looked at, as each of the 26 representing a parent removed and separated from their child, it is obviously very, very important the parties put extreme effort into locating each of the 26 so that number will hopefully be reduced to zero,” he said.

Attorneys for the government and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which sued the government for separating families, provided a status report in the case on Thursday that showed updated figures and new information requests related the reunification effort.

The government said in the status report that it has tasked leadership of the reunification effort to representatives from four agencies: the homeland security department, health department, state department and justice department. It also provided a plan just over five pages long for reunification of parents who were still in the US. The plan for adults who had been deported was not ready this week.

To represent the immigrants rights’ group, a law firm is overseeing a steering committee, which will include input from three advocacy groups, to work with the government to help facilitate reunifications.

Sabraw applauded both sides for working collaboratively and said: “This is a very encouraging status report.”

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