United States using DNA tests to reunite children with migrant parents

Under President Barack Obama, DNA testing of unauthorized border-crossers was rare, former administration officials said, but one said it was sometimes used as a last resort to verify family connections when placing unaccompanied minors with sponsors in the United States.

Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the ACLU who brought the class-action lawsuit on behalf of parents separated from their children even before the administration's zero-tolerance policy took effect in May, told the Sabraw the government's lack of record keeping was "startling".

Sabraw ordered federal officials to provide a list by Saturday afternoon to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) showing all 101 children under 5 years old who still haven't been reunited with their parents.

Forcing families that have already suffered the enormous trauma of being wrenched apart and jailed separately for weeks to wait even longer before they are reunited, the Trump administration is on pace to unify less than half of detained children under five years old with their parents before Tuesday's court-imposed deadline, the ACLU said late Sunday.

The immigrant families are now entered in federal computers as separate individuals, and federal employees are reviewing thousands of immigrant children's cases by hand.

Immigration officials said they've relocated 23 parents to facilities that are closer to the HHS shelters where their children are staying.

The organization and government agreed the locations of the releases would not be disclosed, and the government agreed to work with immigration advocates to ensure the parents had money for a hotel and other necessities.

Children separated from their parents, some as young as 1 year old, are appearing in US immigration court. But only 56 out of about 85 children under five who are eligible for reunification will have been reunited with their parents by the Tuesday deadline. An executive order from the White House curbed the practice of child separation, but did nothing to address the children who had already been abducted.

Health and Human Services is using DNA testing to confirm parentage, which can take time, the government said in a court filing Friday morning. Children five and older must be reunited within 30 days.

Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an worldwide outcry and said families should remain together.

The ACLU also contested the government's assertion that only nine parents have been deported while their children remain in custody, saying they believe the number is 12.

Going forward, the DOJ says that it intends to detain families together in immigration custody - a solution it argues complies with both Sabraw's order as well as the Flores Agreement, a court settlement that limits the amount of time children can be held in immigration detention.

Four children were identified for release to a sponsor other than their mother or father, but the government and ACLU are working to determine whether the parent wants them to be reunited instead, the government attorney said. He called it an "unprecedented situation in connecting parents and children".