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Published: Mon, July 09, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

DNA testing being done on separated migrant children and parents, official says

DNA testing being done on separated migrant children and parents, official says

The ORR program "was not created to track the circumstances" behind a child's arrival in the U.S., Azar said, and the Department of Homeland Security didn't tell the refugee agency which children were taken from parents and which came over the border unaccompanied. The high number of families separated has been a result of the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy, which criminally prosecutes any adult crossing the southern border illegally.

Some parts of the federal judge's ruling are already being complied with, the government said: Families are no longer being separated at the border, and arrangements have been made for children and parents to communicate with each other, a provision which the judge had specified was to be in place by Friday.

The government said it is willing to propose an alternative timeline.

"There are then some groups for whom the reunification process is more hard", lawyer Sarah Fabian told the judge. "It just doesn't make sense", he continued. The families are asking the court to guarantee them at least four phone calls per week including one conference call. The deadline is July 26. But records connecting children to their parents have in some cases disappeared, according to some of those working on the reunifications, leaving authorities struggling to confirm connections between family members.

"We will use every minute of time that we have to confirm the parentage of those individuals who are asserting that they are the parents of these children", he said.

In his comments on Thursday, Azar said that "under 3,000" minors were separated from their parents.

This isn't a ideal equation; we don't know whether the children released from HHS custody were reunited with parents - only that they're no longer in one of the agency's shelters.

More than 2,000 children were separated from their parents after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in May that the "zero tolerance" policy was in full effect, even if it meant splitting families.

In court records, the agencies said they were not prepared to track the separated parents and children, which delayed their efforts to reunite them.

The federal government, under orders from a San Diego federal judge to reunite families that have been separated at the border, says it might need more time.

"I can't believe they have the nerve to ask for more time", Church said.

Guadian also said children under 5 are detained in 23 facilities across 13 states.

The judge, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, set the deadline last week, writing that the "situation has reached a crisis level" and that the "chaotic circumstances" were of the government's own making.

Sophia Gregg, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center, says that beyond it being "extremely intrusive" to take people's DNA, to her, the need for this kind of data collection suggests that the Administration was not prepared to reunite families after they'd been separated.

US officials have reunited around 83 children with their parents so far. Last week, a federal judge ordered the Administration to return minors to their parents within 30 days. Officials said the agency has completed approximately 300 background checks, which include criminal and immigration histories, but still has 1,400 to finish. Administration officials said it was a temporary measure only to free up space in processing centers.

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