MCALLEN, Texas — The clock is ticking for the Trump administration after a federal judge ordered thousands of migrant children and parents who were forcibly separated at the Mexican border reunited within 30 days, sooner for youngsters under 5.

The deadline was set Tuesday night by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego after President Trump’s order ending his policy of separating families gave way to days of uncertainty, conflicting information and no word from the administration on when parents might see their children again.

“This situation has reached a crisis level,” Sabraw wrote.

The ruling poses a host of logistical problems for the administration, and it was unclear how it would meet the deadline.

Health and Human Services, which is in charge of the children, referred questions to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department said the ruling makes it “even more imperative that Congress finally act to give federal law enforcement the ability to simultaneously enforce the law and keep families together.”

“Without this action by Congress, lawlessness at the border will continue,” the department said.

Sabraw, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, said children under 5 must reunited with their parents within 14 days.

He also issued a nationwide injunction against further family separations, unless the parent is deemed unfit or doesn’t want to be with the child, and ordered the government to provide phone contact between parents and their children within 10 days.

The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued in March on behalf of a 7-year-old girl who was separated from her Congolese mother and a 14-year-old boy who was taken from his Brazilian mother.

“Tears will be flowing in detention centers across the country when the families learn they will be reunited,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.

As for whether the deadline is realistic, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said: “Matching up 2,000 kids, which is probably fewer than the number of entrants into JFK on a very busy day, should not be a problem for the U.S. federal government if it chooses to make it a priority.”

“It’s a question of political will, not resources,” he said.

More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents in recent weeks and placed in government-contracted shelters – hundreds of miles away, in some cases – under a “zero tolerance” policy toward families caught illegally entering the U.S. Many are from drug- and violence-wracked Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Amid a global outcry, Trump last week issued an executive order to stop the separations.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.