463 parents separated from children may have been deported without them, court filing says

A Honduran woman holds her baby after surrendering to Border Patrol agents in Granjeno, Texas, on June 25.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

With two days to go before a court-imposed deadline, the federal government has reunited or otherwise resolved cases for fewer than half of the 2,551 children 5 and older separated from their parents at the border, according to a Monday court filing.

The Trump administration also said it believes 463 parents were deported while their children remained in the U.S., but that it is reviewing those cases.

The filing is the latest in a class-action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in February on behalf of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under the administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.


U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in June ordered the Trump administration to reunify families, starting with children younger than 5. Now the administration is trying to meet a Thursday deadline for older children.

The government reported 1,187 reunifications “or other appropriate discharges.” Those children were reunited with 879 parents who were still in immigration detention when the government was ordered to put the families back together, the filing said.

More than 500 parents have been “green-lighted,” the government said, and are waiting on transportation to be reunited with their children, many of whom were sent to facilities across the U.S.

The government reported that about 130 parents told immigration officials during interviews that they preferred their children stay in the U.S., often with other relatives.

The ACLU’s attorneys have been pushing the government for the names of those parents, and in Monday’s court filing called for the administration to give them an updated list.

“These parents urgently need consultations with lawyers, so that they do not mistakenly strand their children in the United States,” ACLU attorneys wrote in the court filing.


The government said in the filing that it would provide an updated list Tuesday. The ACLU attorneys asked the judge for an order to ensure that happens.

ACLU attorneys also want a list of deported parents. The Trump administration had agreed to provide the list by last Friday, but in Monday’s filing, government attorneys said they needed more time. “Some of this information is still under review,” the filing said.

The government said 64 parents didn’t qualify to be reunited with their children because they had significant criminal histories or were otherwise “deemed ineligible.”

The government first worked to meet a July 10 court deadline to reunite children younger than 5 with their parents, and now are trying to meet the Thursday deadline to return children in the 5-to-17 age group to their families.

Sabraw has repeatedly criticized the government’s lack of early planning for family reunification. On Friday, he praised the government’s progress toward the final deadline.

Last week, following an ACLU request, Sabraw temporarily suspended deportations of reunited families. The government plans to argue against that decision; Sabraw has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday afternoon.

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