DNA tests ordered to reunite separated migrant families

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None of the children separated have yet been reunited with their illegal immigrant parents still in government custody, Mr. Azar said Thursday, though he said they will meet the court's deadlines.

Lawyers for the agency argue that meeting an upcoming July 10 court-mandated deadline to reunite children under age 5 and a subsequent deadline to reunite the almost 3,000 remaining children later this month would be hard.

"The safety and security is paramount, and it is not uncommon for children to be trafficked or smuggled by those claiming to be parents", the official said. The girl, then 6, was sent to a Chicago shelter contracted by Health and Human Services, while the mother was held at a San Diego immigration detention facility until March 6. "It's not here", Azar said, adding that migrant children are being well cared for in HHS facilities.

Azar called the deadlines "extreme" but said HHS would comply after an extensive effort to identify children in its shelters who were separated from their parents, to confirm parentage, and to screen parents for criminal violations or other problems that could result in harm to kids. Trump administration officials have signaled they want to detain families indefinitely if they cross the border illegally, regardless of whether they are claiming asylum, in part because they say the cases move much quicker. But after separating thousands of children absent that finding, the government is now making the opposite argument - that they must clear a high bar, that it claims the court set in its order, by proving the parents are not risky or unfit before reunification can happen.

The Department of Health and Human Services "knows the identity and location of every minor in the care of our grantees, and HHS is executing on our mission even with the constraints handed down by the courts", he said. Usually, the agency places kids with a USA relative or foster family while their immigration cases are decided.

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Azar said the USA government was relocating parents of children under 5 years old to detention facilities close to their children to help speed up family reunification. After first blaming the practice on the Democrats, Trump on June 20 signed an executive order that stopped the separation of families.

Falcon, communications director for RAICES, a nonprofit in Texas that offers free and low-priced legal services to immigrants and refugees, called the move deplorable because collecting such sensitive data would allow the government to conduct surveillance on the children "for the rest of their lives".

"It's deplorable they are using the guise of reuniting children to collect even more sensitive data about very young children", said Jennifer Falcon of RAICES, a Texas-based rights group representing migrant families.

The Trump administration is asking a federal judge for an extension of the deadline set to reunify all of the migrant parents who were separated from their children at the U.S. -Mexico border. Administration officials said it was a temporary measure only to free up space in processing centers. "Country being forced to endure a long and costly trial", he wrote.

Congress has failed to pass immigration bills this year. Republicans are divided among hardliners and business-oriented moderates who don't see immigration as a threat.

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