During a conference call with reporters and U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw on Friday afternoon, government officials acknowledged that as many as 20 percent of the youngest children ripped from their parents on Donald Trump’s orders won’t be reunified with their families any time soon.
The revelation comes a day after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar assured the public that the government would meet the court’s July 10 deadline to reunite children under the age of 5 with their parents, only to immediately backtrack.
On a conference call, officials from HHS said they expect approximately half of the roughly 100 children under the age of five to be reunited with their parents by Tuesday, the deadline imposed by Judge Sabraw in a decision last week.
But they also acknowledged that they do not know the whereabouts of the parents of roughly 20 percent of the toddlers still in custody, and likely won’t meet the July 10 deadline.
The humanitarian crisis caused by Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy has resulted in thousands of young children being separated from their parents at the border and relocated to hastily constructed and poorly managed prison camps around the country. An executive order from the White House curbed the practice of child separation, but did nothing to address the children who had already been abducted. It took a court order from Judge Sabraw to force the government to begin reuniting children with their parents. In addition to the July 10 deadline for the youngest children held in captivity, the government has until July 26 to reunite the remaining minors with their families.