WILMINGTON, DELAWARE – The U.S. government urged a federal judge on Tuesday to allow the quick deportation of immigrant parents once they are reunited with their children, rejecting a request by a civil rights group that said parents needed time to assess legal options.
The government is facing a Thursday court-ordered deadline to reunite around 2,500 migrant children that officials separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexican border as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” toward illegal immigration.
President Donald Trump ended the family separation practice in late June after video footage of children sitting in cages and audio of wailing kids sparked international outrage.
U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego, who ordered last month that the government had to reunite the children, will consider the request to delay deportations at a Tuesday hearing.
The request was made by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has argued that parents facing final removal orders should not be deported for at least a week after being reunited with their children.
The rights group said the time was necessary for the parents to consider the legal options for their children, who might be better off remaining in the United States to pursue asylum. Most of the parents fled violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Parents with a final order of removal already get 48 hours to decide if they want to be reunified and return home as a family, or leave their child in the United States, the government said in a court filing on Tuesday.
The government also said Sabraw lacks the authority to block the government from carrying out a removal order.
David Jennings, a Department of Homeland Security official, said housing families costs the government $319 per person daily.
“Each additional day delay in removal would not only deplete limited taxpayer resources, but they also extend aliens’ time in detention,” Jennings said in a court filing.
As of Monday, at least 879 parents had been reunited, according to a joint Monday court filing by the government and the ACLU. However, another 463 parents have been deported without their children, and it was unclear when those families will be reunited.
The government reunited children under five earlier this month, although it missed a court-ordered deadline for doing so.
The reunification process has been marred by disarray within government agencies and difficulty tracking adults and children in detention.