The Trump administration Thursday said that all eligible migrant children under age 5 who were separated from their parents at the border were reunited with their families.
“As of this morning, the initial reunifications were completed,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a joint statement. “The Trump administration does not approach this mission lightly, and we intend to continue our good faith efforts to reunify families.”
The announcement came two days after the original court-ordered deadline to reunify the families.
According to the Trump administration, 57 of the 103 children under age 5 were eligible to be reunited with their families under a court order issued last month. However, the remaining 46 children weren’t eligible for reasons involving background checks of the parents or other logistical barriers, the officials said. For instance, 12 adults were deported and are still being contacted.
The administration officials touted the background checks — which contributed to delayed reunifications — for preventing children from situations like being placed with an alleged murderer, an adult who was convicted of child cruelty or adults who were not actually the parents to the children.
The reunification deadline represents only the beginning of what could be an arduous task of tracking down migrant parents and children who were forcibly separated when they were caught at the border. Under President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” border strategy, thousands of minors were separated from adults, who then faced misdemeanor illegal entry charges.