Parents in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody "for the most part" are being taken to locations near their children and the families will be released, Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian said in court.
The government has reportedly struggled to offer exact information about the number of children separated from their parents.
In this June 25 photo, a mother migrating from Honduras holds her 1-year-old child while surrendering to U.S. Border Patrol agents after illegally crossing the border, near McAllen, Texas.
Yeni Gonzalez, a Guatemalan mother who was separated from her three children at the US-Mexico border, at a news conference in July in NY. Last week, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said there were "under 3000" separated children in all. Don't come to our country illegally.
Late last month, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a 14-day deadline to reunite children under 5 with their parents and a 30-day deadline for older children. Fabian said two of those children have already been reunited, and another 54 will be reunited by Tuesday.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which sued the government over its separation policies, questioned that assertion.
The father said he planned to live with relatives in the United States as his asylum case is processed, which could take years.
In Tuesday's filing, administration lawyers stated that a remaining 27 children were not eligible for reunification with a parent and were therefore not subject to the court-mandated reunification deadline. But a judge shot down that plan Monday, noting that it conflicts with the 1997 Flores legal settlement that prohibits detaining immigrant children for longer than 20 days - even with their parents.
Matthew Albence, executive associate director of ICE's enforcement and removal programs, told reporters on Tuesday that the administration had also at least temporarily ceased referring adults who arrive in the USA illegally with children for prosecution, adding that they will be given ankle bracelets "and released into the community".
"He was happy. I was happy", she said.
Devin O'Malley, a Justice Department spokesman, said the department disagreed with Gee's Monday ruling and continued to review it.
Catholic Charities, which helped place some of the children in shelter facilities after their separation, held a news briefing in NY at which a handful of the reunited parents expressed relief after weeks of anxiety over the separations. The Trump administration is trying to line up thousands more beds at military bases.
Some attorneys and advocates prepared for Tuesday's (Wednesday NZT) reunions with little information.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the White House's planned crackdown on immigration on May 7 - warning would-be immigrants that "If you cross the border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you".
A Honduran man, identified only by his first name, Roger, was happy to be back with his 4-year-old son, who sat on his lap and played with the microphones as the father spoke to reporters. Their three-year-old sons were in temporary foster care in Grand Rapids while they were in a jail in Battle Creek.
Sabraw, an appointee of Republican President George W Bush, said on Monday (Tuesday NZT) that he was "very encouraged" by the efforts to reunite families by his deadline, calling it "real progress".
In the meantime, many of these children have had to face their immigration proceedings without their parents in court.
If the children under five are not back with their parents by Thursday, Sabraw has asked the ACLU to suggest penalties he could levy against the government. One parent was suspected of child abuse; another was living in a household with another adult who had an outstanding warrant for criminal sexual abuse of a minor.