Government, ACLU differ on wait time for asylum seekers

July 24, 2018 - 2:07 pm

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Trump administration and the American Civil Liberties Union failed to agree on how much time parents should have to decide whether to seek asylum after they are reunited with their children who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

The administration proposed a four-day waiting period, three days shorter than the ACLU proposed, according to government filing in federal court.

The longer waiting period would increase costs and occupy limited beds, David Jennings, an official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a declaration filed with the court. It costs $319 a day to detain a family member, and there are about 2,500 to 2,700 beds nationwide to house families.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw imposed a temporary halt last week on deporting reunified families after the ACLU requested the one-week waiting period, citing "persistent and increasing rumors ... that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification." The ACLU argued parents needed the time to discuss whether to seek asylum with their children, lawyers and advocates.

The two sides appeared close to an agreement on Monday when they jointly requested a 24-hour extension to iron out differences.

Sabraw was scheduled to consider the dispute at his seventh hearing on the case this month on Tuesday. He will also review the status of efforts to reunify more than 2,500 ages 5 and older by a court-imposed deadline on Thursday. He imposed a July 10 deadline for dozens of children under 5.

On Monday, the administration said in a court filing that 463 parents may not be in the United States. It said those findings are based on case notes and are under review, signaling the number could change.

There have been 1,187 children reunified with their parents or "other appropriate discharges," which include guardians and sponsors, according to Monday's filing.

More than 1,600 parents were considered eligible for reunification, including 217 who have been released into the United States. About 900 more are considered "either not eligible, or not yet known to be eligible, for reunification."

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