A US federal judge has criticized the efforts made by President Donald Trump’s administration in reuniting undocumented immigrant children with their parents who were separated at the US-Mexico border, saying it was the responsibility of the government to reunite the families.
“This is going to be a significant undertaking and it’s clear there has to be one person in charge,” US District Judge Dana Sabraw said Friday at a hearing in San Diego, California.
“I have to say that it was disappointing in the respect that there was not a plan proposed,” he said.
Sabraw in June ordered the government to begin reuniting some 2,500 children that officials separated from their parents after they crossed the US-Mexican border.
Many of them had crossed the border illegally, while others had sought asylum. About 1,900 children have since been reconnected with their parents or a sponsor.
The families were separated as part of the US government’s “zero tolerance” policy toward undocumented immigrants that began in early May. In June, Trump ended the family separations after an intense domestic and international outcry.
On Thursday, the government proposed that non-profit groups should take the lead in locating as many as 500 parents deported or removed from the United States without their children. At Friday’s hearing, Sabraw said it was it was “100 percent the responsibility of the administration” to reunite those families.
Sabraw also noted that only 12 of the 500 parents in question have been located. “That is just unacceptable at this point,” he said. “The reality is that for every parent who is not located there will be a permanently orphaned child.”
Most of deported parents are now in Guatemala or Honduras in Central America, according to Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the parents.
The US government’s lawyer, Scott Stewart, said the Trump US immigration officials had proposed a plan with non-profit groups in a prominent role because it believed that was the quickest way to locate parents.
Non-profit groups and attorneys have been working in Central America to locate the parents. Many of them originally fled to the United States to escape widespread violence at home. But the ACLU says some regions in Central America were too dangerous or too remote for the non-profit workers searching for parents.