The Trump administration’s draconian family separation policy has resulted in utter chaos. Although President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting the “zero-tolerance” policy, thousands of separated children still remain in federal custody.
Judge Dana Sabraw of Federal District Court in San Diego ordered the administration to reunify the youngest children by July 10 and all children by July 26.
However, nearly 3,000 children remain in custody – away from their parents.
At first, Human and Health Services Secretary Alex Azar said they will meet with the given deadlines. However, he later said the agency needed more time to place separated children back with their parents.
Sabraw has not yet given a blanket extension on the deadline. Instead, he has asked for a list of the children, along with reasons of why exactly they cannot be given back to their families yet.
Not only that, the administration further admitted it cannot track records of the parents of 38 migrant children who were separated at the border.
Government lawyers said they can only reunite half of the 101 children under 5 who have to be given back to their parents. The parents of half of the 38 children have been deported, while the parents of the rest of the 19 children have been released from custody but their whereabouts remain unknown.
"The way [a family separation] is put in the system is not in some aggregable form, so we can’t just run it all," Sarah Fabian, a Justice Department attorney representing the government, said during a status hearing before U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego, NBC reported.
As the Trump administration tries to meet the approaching deadline, the reality of the crumbling bureaucratic underpinnings of the program become dangerously evident.
A source from within the White House told The New York Times the reunification process has been marred with bureaucratic chaos as different departments squabble over the best way to proceed with the reunification and the nightmarish encounters with different databases and computer systems.
Even with an administration that has no structural integrity, the current regime rushed to put into place the new policy. It is distressing to imagine how the clumsy cruelty of this administration has affected toddlers and young children taken from their parents.
Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the process has also slowed down because the administration is using the same vetting guidelines it does for unaccompanied minors to ensure they are not handed over to adults who might exploit them.
“DNA testing is intrusive and makes parents nervous,” Gelernt said. ”The government is saying DNA every single person. We would say that DNA is the last resort.”
The back and forth statements by Trump administration officials show how gravely confused they are in tackling a situation they initiated themselves.
Thumbnail, Banner: Reuters, Loren Elliott