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HHS warns speedy reunifications could put migrant children in danger

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A federal judge said he would consider a request by the American Civil Liberties Union for the U.S. government to pay for the cost of reuniting families. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

By Danielle Haynes, UPI

The U.S. Department of Health and Human services outlined its plan to reunite the 2,500 separated migrant children with their parents, but warned a speedy process to do so could put some of the youngsters in danger.

[post_ads]In a court filing Friday, the department said it plans to use a quicker process to reunited the thousands of children between the ages of 5 and 17 by July 26. Earlier this week, U.S. officials reunited more than half of the 103 youngest children, but missed the Tuesday deadline for some who were eligible.

For the younger children, the government used DNA testing to prove parentage and conducted background checks to ensure the parent had no criminal history that could put the child in danger. Of those families who were not reunited, some parents could not prove parentage and others could put the child at risk, the government said.

DNA tests and full background checks, though, will not be conducted for the older class of children.

"While most children should be safely reunited with their actual parents by the court's deadline, the class if large and the agencies must proceed rapidly and without the procedures that HHS would ordinarily use to place a child with a parent safely," the court filing said.

"While the agencies are committed to complying fully with the court's orders ... the Department of Health and Human Services is concerned that the truncated procedures needed for compliance present significant risk to child welfare."

HHS said it plans to institute "rolling" reunifications, returning about 200 children a day with their parents. Officials also said they'll identify between six and eight sites to process the children, though it's unclear if the reunited families will remain detained or be released together.

At the hearing, the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing some of the parents in the case, requested that the U.S. government be required to pay to reunite families, and that the parents shouldn't shoulder the cost. Judge Dana Sabraw said he would consider the request and ordered a hearing for Monday.

Since April, the Department of Homeland Security has separated between 2,500 and 3,000 children from their parents after the Department of Justice announced a "zero-tolerance" policy to prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally.
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"If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in early May.

The new policy faced backlash from immigrant advocates and lawmakers from the Democratic and Republican parties, and on June 20, President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending the practice of separating families. The order, though, didn't address how or when already-separated families would be reunited.

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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: HHS warns speedy reunifications could put migrant children in danger
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