(ESPAÑOL) A judge on Friday urged the U.S. government to focus on finding deported immigrant parents so it could reunite them with their children who remain in the United States following separation by officials at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months.
The government had declared it had met a court-ordered deadline to reunite families separated during the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy” aimed at discouraging illegal immigration.
U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw said at a court hearing in San Diego the government deserved credit for the 1,820 children released from custody to a parent or sponsor. However, he urged officials to focus on the 711 children who remain separated after the government deemed their parents ineligible because they were deported, the government was unable to find them in the United States or the parent failed a background check.
Sabraw seemed most concerned during Friday’s hearing with allegations that 120 parents who the government said had waived their right to reunification might have misunderstood what they were signing, or felt coerced.
The government has said it has given every detained parent notice of their legal rights, and contact information for an attorney.
The ACLU, which brought the lawsuit that led to Sabraw’s reunification order, asked Sabraw to halt deportations of parents who waived their reunification rights and to give parents a week after being reunited with their children before being deported.
Separately, a U.S. federal judge on Friday ordered the appointment of an independent monitor to report on conditions in federal detention centers housing immigrant children.
At a Los Angeles court hearing, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said there appeared to be persistent problems at the centers and the monitor would review potential violations of the 1997 Flores settlement, which set standards for the facilities.
The government acknowledged that it lacked the technical capability to quickly provide information about children separated from their parents, according to a court filing on Thursday.