All migrant children under 5 to be back with parents by Thursday

Fewer than half of child reunions will meet Tuesday's deadline ACLU says

More than 50 immigrant children under age 5 will be reunited with their parents by Tuesday's court-ordered deadline for action by Trump administration, a government attorney said Monday.

Immigrant children around the US left shelters with their backpacks and a tender goodbye hug from staff members onTuesday as the Trump administration began reuniting dozens of youngsters with their parents under a court-ordered deadline. They will be set free in the USA pending the outcome of their immigration cases, which can take several years.

As the federal government races to reunite the children it separated from parents, one child under the age of five appears to stand alone: He or she may be an American citizen.

About a week after Trump signed the order, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw of San Diego ordered that all children be returned within 30 days.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the parents in a class-action lawsuit, said US officials "have not even tried" to return 12 children to parents who were deported, and said officials should have more quickly found eight parents who have been released in the United States.

For almost one month Perez knew nothing about her children - "the longest, most torturous time of my life", she said.

"I would permit DNA testing when necessary, when there is a legitimate good faith concern about parentage or legitimate concern the government will not meet the reunification deadline", Sabraw said.

Since the government first came under pressure to ease its policy on separations weeks ago, it has shifted its estimates of the number of children it would reunite. The child is now in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement. "We demand immediate reunification of these families, an end to the so-called "zero tolerance" policy, and once and for all we must end family detention".

"He was happy. I was happy", she said. "Those were the worst days of my life".

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On Friday, a 1-year-old Honduran boy named Johan was forced to wait over an hour to see an immigration judge in Phoenix, the Associated Press reported. The father said he was still shaken by the ordeal he had to go through just to speak to his boy while he was in government custody.

U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to blame the Democratic Party, among others, for not fixing immigration. "Judges run the system and illegals and traffickers know how it works".

"Our staff came in early, made sure every backpack was full and every child got a hug and a goodbye", Juan Sánchez, the non-profit group's president and chief executive, said in a statement.

One immigration advocate told Reuters she was still awaiting details on when officials would return two children younger than 5 to their parents. One parent was suspected of child abuse; another was living in a household with another adult who had an outstanding warrant for criminal sexual abuse of a minor.

"Our clients still have not been reunified!" said Beth Krause, an attorney with Legal Aid Society's Immigrant Youth Project, in an email to Reuters.

Despite the delay in fulfilling her order, Sabraw commended the government for its efforts.

If the children under five are not back with their parents by Thursday, Sabraw has asked the ACLU to suggest penalties he could levy against the government.

Rights advocates have blamed the USA government's poor technology for difficulties tracking children across multiple government agencies involved in their detention and care.

After announcing on June 20 that family separations would stop, the federal government said it will instead keep some families together in detention facilities.

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