The Trump administration confirmed on Monday that it will not meet the deadline set by a federal judge for reuniting parents with their young children.
The move comes in advance of a Monday hearing on whether to extend the Tuesday deadline for reuniting the children with their families.
The hearing only covered the roughly 100 children under the age of 5 who were separated from their parents under the administration's "zero tolerance" border prosecution policy.
Of the 102 children under age 5 who were supposed to be reunited by Tuesday, the government says it should be able to connect at least 54 of them with their parents, Sarah Fabian, the Justice Department lawyer, said in court.
Once again, Southern District of California Judge Dana Sabraw held off on giving them an extension, and is instead demanding that they come back to court on Tuesday to explain how many families were reunited, why the government failed reunite the rest by the deadline, and how much more time it will need for those cases.
Two weeks have passed since President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end his administration's policy of separating undocumented immigrant children and parents, but chaos still reigns at the border and across the country as family reunification has hit roadblocks.
Sabraw previously ordered that thousands more children aged five and older should be reunited with their parents by July 26, but Monday's hearing did not touch on their cases. The Justice Department was working through the weekend on a path toward unification and was preparing a progress report for the court.
Federal officials have said somewhere "under 3,000" migrant children have been separated overall, but their numbers have varied. Around 80 percent of them are teenagers who tried to make the crossing without their parents, HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said.
One there is no information on the parent. Some of the children were brought to the United States by someone who is not their biological parent, for example, while others have parents with serious criminal records. Some parents of children under 5 were already deported, presenting an extra challenge for reunification.
Mr. Gelernt, what did the court decide today about these children under five, who should be reunited with their families? "This is real progress and I'm optimistic that many of these families will be reunited tomorrow, and then we'll have a very clear understanding as to who has not been reunited, why not, and what time-frame will be in place".
The judge directed the government to file a detailed accounting of the reunification process and scheduled a hearing for Tuesday at 11 a.m. PDT (1800 GMT).
"I believe they can reunite some individuals tomorrow, but a major obstacle is their insistence on using the long verification process that was designed for unaccompanied minors", he said, citing the controversial DNA testing and criminal background checks the government is going through prior to returning the young children to their parents.
"The government must reunite them", the judge said.
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project and the lead lawyer who argued for the preliminary injunction, said in a July 8 press release that the request for more time was unacceptable given the levels of trauma the children have already been subjected to.