Judge Criticizes Family Reunion Plan 07/15 12:32
A federal judge, responding to a plan to reunify children separated at the
border, said he was having second thoughts about his belief that the Trump
administration was acting in good faith to comply with his orders.
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A federal judge, responding to a plan to reunify children
separated at the border, said he was having second thoughts about his belief
that the Trump administration was acting in good faith to comply with his
The Justice Department on Friday filed a plan to reunify more than 2,500
children age 5 and older by a court-imposed deadline of July 26 using
"truncated" procedures to verify parentage and perform background checks, which
exclude DNA testing and other steps it took to reunify children under 5.
The administration said the abbreviated vetting puts children at significant
safety risk but is needed to meet the deadline.
Chris Meekins, deputy assistant Health and Human Services secretary for
preparedness and response, filed a declaration that he is fully committed to
meeting the deadline. However, he does not believe "the placing of children
into such situations is consistent with the mission of HHS or my core values."
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw took umbrage at Meekins' statement,
disputing the official's interpretation of his orders and saying that safe
reunification could and will occur by July 26.
"It is clear from Mr. Meekins's declaration that HHS either does not
understand the court's orders or is acting in defiance of them," the judge
wrote late Friday. "At a minimum, it appears he is attempting to provide cover
to defendants for their own conduct in the practice of family separation, and
the lack of foresight and infrastructure necessary to remedy the harms caused
by that practice."
Sabraw, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said Meekins' statement
calls into question his comments in court hours earlier that the administration
was acting in good faith.
Sabraw said in court Friday that the administration had largely complied
with orders but, at the same time, he indicated he will be monitoring its
actions ahead of the deadline.
The judge said the administration must provide a list of names of parents in
immigration custody and their children by Monday and complete background checks
for them by Thursday. He scheduled four hearings over the next two weeks for
updates, including one on Monday.
"The task is laborious, but can be accomplished in the time and manner
prescribed," he wrote in his order.