On Friday, a San Diego judge ordered the government of Donald Trump to pay the costs of reconnecting immigrant parents with their children instead of forcing undocumented immigrants to assume the cost.
The United States government is working to unite some 2,000 children with their parents. These are the separated children and parents who were detained during Trump’s zero tolerance policy to discourage illegal immigration.
“It does not make sense for any of the parents who have been separated to pay anything,” said District Judge Dana Sabraw who last month ordered that the children be reunited with their parents before July 26.
Trump has made his harsh immigration policies a central part of his presidency. His government made the decision to separate families as part of their efforts to discourage illegal immigration, but yielded to intense political pressure.
An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has sued the government for the separations of families, said at the hearing that authorities were telling undocumented parents they needed pay. A father was asked for $1,900 to take him to his son, according to ACLU court documents.
Trump government attorney Sarah Fabian, said the judge’s order to pay for reunifications was “a huge request for HHS,” referring to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Fabian said those decisions were handled in the field, adding that HHS, which organizes the accommodation of detained minors, has limited resources. “The government will make this happen,” Sabraw replied.
The judge also agreed to impose a deadline for the government to provide details about the reunification efforts.
The administration has said that their efforts have been delayed due to the need to perform DNA tests and criminal background checks on the parents and to determine if they are able to care for their children.
In a presentation to the court, HHS official Chris Meekins said the government has optimized its review procedures to meet the deadline ordered by the court, but added that the faster process could put the children at risk.
Adults are no longer tested for DNA to verify they are parents, Meekins said, and background checks no longer apply to adults who live with children.
Meekins added that while the abbreviated process accelerates reunification, it “significantly increases the risk of harm to children” and could result in a child ending up in an abusive environment or with adults other than their parents.
The government said it intends to identify between six and eight locations where all the reunifications will take place. The government document does not detail if it intends to release the families after reunification, deport them or keep them together.