The Trump administration said today that it fulfilled a court order to reunify all eligible migrant children under the age of 5 with their parents.
In a joint statement, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said they have been working to ensure the children’s well-being.
“Our agencies’ careful vetting procedures helped prevent the reunification of children with an alleged murderer, an adult convicted of child cruelty and adults determined not to be the parent of the child,” the three officials said. “Of course, there remains a tremendous amount of hard work and similar obstacles facing our teams in reuniting the remaining families. The Trump administration does not approach this mission lightly, and we intend to continue our good faith efforts to reunify families.”
The administration faces another court deadline in two weeks to reunite all immigrant children separated from their families at the border.
The agency heads said migrants should not risk their lives or children’s safety by attempting to enter the U.S. without documentation, and called on immigrants to instead apply for asylum at designated ports of entry.
“The American immigration system is the most generous in the world, but we are a nation of laws and we intend to continue enforcing those laws,” the officials said. “Establishing the immigration system demanded of our political leaders by the American people for more than 30 years – one that serves the national interest – will allow our nation to further realize the foundation of freedom, safety, and prosperity we inherited from our Founders.”
The preliminary injunction in the case brought by the ACLU covered 103 detained children under age 5. Of those, 57 had been reunited with their families at of 7 a.m. today, the statement said. The other 46 children were determined to be ineligible for reunification.
The administration said those children who were not reunited remain in HHS custody because the adults they arrived with had criminal histories of harming or kidnapping children, were not their biological parents, had falsified birth certificates, were planning to house a child with sexual predators, had abused the child or were being treated for a contagious disease.
Several of those adults are in removal proceedings, while others have not been located.