A federal judge has ordered that US immigration agents can no longer separate parents and children caught crossing the border from Mexico illegally and must work to reunite those families that have been split up within 30 days.
Dana Sabraw, a district court judge in San Diego, granted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a preliminary injunction on Tuesday, which set a hard deadline in a process that until now had yielded uncertainty about when children might again see their parents.
Children younger than five must be reunited with their families within 14 days, the court ruled.
“Tears will be flowing in detention centres across the country when the families learn they will be reunited,” said Lee Gelernt, an ACLU lawyer, after the ruling.
It is not clear how border authorities will meet the deadline, however. The health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, told Congress on Tuesday that his department still had custody of 2,047 children separated from their parents at the border. That is only six fewer than the number in HHS custody last Wednesday. Democratic senators said that was not nearly enough progress.
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