US Judge gives administration of President Donald Trump six months to identify separated migrant children

Undocumented migrant women and their children arrive at a bus station following release from Customs and Border Protection in McAllen, Tex...

Undocumented migrant women and their children arrive at a bus station following release from Customs and Border Protection in McAllen, Texas. (AFP photo)

A US judge has ordered the administration of President Donald Trump to identify immigrant children separated from their parents after crossing the US-Mexican border.

At a hearing on Tuesday in San Diego, California, US Judge Dana Sabraw gave the Trump administration six months to comb through the records of 47,000 immigrant children and identify the separated ones.

“I am going to issue an order to do this in six months, subject to good cause,” Sabraw said. “It is important for all government actors to have a time frame and I intend to stand on it.”

A government official said at Thursday’s hearing he hoped to meet the deadline, but the government said earlier this month it might take two years to identify the separated children.

Last year, Sabraw ordered the government to reunite around 2,700 children who were separated under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting illegal border crossers, even if they had children.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which brought a class action lawsuit on behalf of parents separated from their children, pressed Sabraw to give the government a firm deadline.

The administration abandoned the zero tolerance policy last year in the wake of widespread outcry.In January, an internal government watchdog said there were potentially thousands more separated migrant children, although the exact number is unclear due to informal record keeping.

Tens of thousands of mostly Central American migrants cross into the United States annually, seeking refuge.

Trump has made toughening immigration policies a central tenet of his presidency and has vowed to build a wall along the US-Mexico border to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

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