The Department of Justice revealed to a court on Tuesday that in enforcing the "zero tolerance" immigration policy at the border, it may have inadvertently separated a father and toddler, even as they might have been U.S. citizens.
The DoJ also admitted that they could have separated parent and child for as long as a year now. The revelation was spurred by a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the government, which resulted in federal judge Dana Sabraw ordering officials to reunite children under the age of 5 with their families.
They had until Tuesday, July 10, to accomplish that, according to the Guardian.
"The fact that a citizen got caught up in this mess shows just how poor the government's record-keeping was, and this is just the latest example," Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said about this debacle that the group described as "horrific."
The administration was ordered to reunite the 102 children under the age of 5, that they have in custody, with their parents by July 10. As of the set deadline, the government has only secured the reunification of 38 children and have provided reasons for missing the deadline for the rest of the 64 children remaining, according to Paste Magazine.
Their entry admitted that the government was unable to determine the location of the parent "for more than a year." More importantly, the DoJ noted that "records show the parent and child might be U.S. citizens."
The government is faced with another deadline, where they have to reunite the more than 2,000 children they have under custody with their parents by Thursday, July 26. With the court-appointed date two weeks away, the U.S. Health and Human Services have hatched a plan that involves DNA testing to speed up the process.
"We will comply even if those deadlines prevent us from conducting a standard or even a truncated vetting process," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.