GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The federal deadline to reunite migrant children separated from their parents is Thursday, July 26, at midnight, yet the government is unlikely to fully reunify families by then.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to reunite all children with their families by July 26, but, according to government officials, as many 914 parents will not be reunited with their children by the deadline.
During a status hearing Tuesday, government officials said they have already reunited 1,012 families to date, and Judge Sabraw called that progress "remarkable." However, Judge Sabraw faulted the government after officials said 463 parents are believed to no longer be in the U.S. and likely to have been deported without their children.
Another 200 parents will not be reunited with their children immediately, either because the parents have criminal records or they declined to be reunified. A further 260 parents' cases must be investigated, officials added, including some parents the government cannot locate.
There are also close to 40 children reported separated from their families by the government but unaccounted for. Lawmakers say the hurdles caused by separating migrant families are unacceptable.
"Yesterday, it was reported there were 37 they could not identify in terms of the identity of the child or the parent," said Sen. Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois. "That is an incredible number. Thirty-seven lost children in the United States of America because of our government policies; I'm fearful the number's even larger than that."
The deadline to reunite children younger than five years old with their families was July 10. Bethany Christian Services officials told FOX 17 they cared for seven children under the age of five in their transitional foster care in Michigan and in Maryland. They added that they reunited all seven children by the July 10 deadline. However, that number differs from claims by attorneys representing the family members who were separated.
ACLU of Michigan communications director Ann Mullen tells FOX 17 they represented two fathers who are now reunited with their children, including one father with his three-year-old son in Grand Rapids. In regards to the ongoing family separation, detention and efforts to reunify families, Mullen wrote,
"The Trump administration is legally required to reunite all children it separated from their parents by tomorrow. The administration created these cruel and inhuman policies and we will hold the administration accountable for failing to meet this deadline. Family separation is causing horrific suffering to children and their parents. We will continue to fight in court to immediately reunite thousands of children with their parents and to stop future separations. The Trump administration created this crisis and we will not stop until all families are reunited, and indefinite detention of families at the border, come to a halt."
FOX 17 also reached out to Bethany Christian Services for an update regarding Thursday's deadline. Their officials have yet to respond with further information. Previously, BCS said they were caring for children separated from their families up to nine years old throughout their statewide transitional foster care.