Trump Administration Argues They Don’t Have To Reunite 19 Children Under Age 5 Whose Parents Already Deported

U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley SectorAP Images

The Trump administration is pushing back against a court order to reunite immigrant children taken from their parents, arguing in court that they should not have to reunite 19 kids under the age of 5, whose parents were already deported.

Next week marks a court-ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunite the youngest children who were separated from parents and brought to detention centers as part of Donald Trump’s new zero tolerance policy with immigrants. But Trump is pushing back, with Politico reporting that the administration is trying to push back the deadline — and, in some cases, arguing that it should not have to reunite the children at all.

As the report noted, the Justice Department was given a deadline of 8 p.m. ET on Saturday to reunite the 100 children under the age of 5 who were taken, and they have until Tuesday to return them to their parents. As Talking Points Memo reporter Alice Ollstein noted on Twitter, the Trump administration has argued that it should not have to reunite the 19 children whose parents have already been deported.

The Trump administration is not likely to meet the deadline to reunite all 3,000 separated children by the end of the month, Politico reported. The Justice Department told a San Diego judge that they were using DNA to connect children with their parents, but that the process would take quite some time.

“Given the possibility of false claims of parentage, confirming parentage is critical to ensure that children are returned to their parents, not to potential traffickers,” Justice Department lawyers wrote. “The Government… seeks clarification that in cases where parentage cannot be confirmed quickly, HHS will not be in violation of the Court’s order if reunification occurs outside of the timelines provided by the Court.”

Donald Trump was forced to rescind the policy separating immigrant children from their parents after an international backlash, but close to 3,000 children had already been taken from parents and the process for reuniting them has not been clear. The administration has now turned to DNA testing for many of the children.

There is also disagreement about what counts as returning children to their parents. Six Democratic governors wrote a letter, as shared by Politico, saying that the Department of Health and Human Services considered reunification as returning the child to any sponsor, even if it was not the parent they were first with when entering the United States. The letter noted that the Trump administration even considered sending a child to a long-term foster care setting as a “successful reunification.”