AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The chief executive officer of the nation’s largest shelters for migrant children says he’s “ready now” to start reuniting hundreds of babies and young kids with their families.
Juan Sanchez of the nonprofit Southwest Key Programs made the comments hours before a judge in California ordered U.S. border authorities to bring separated families together within 30 days of a late Tuesday ruling. If children are younger than 5, they must be reunified within the next 14 days.
Sanchez said his nonprofit has located many of the parents who have been arrested for trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border so - if the opportunity arose - they could move quickly to reunite the families.
“We’re ready today,” said Sanchez, who had been fearful of a long, drawn out process.
Sanchez earlier said parents’ cases would likely have to first make their way through the legal system. Only then could the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement give the go-ahead to put families back together. He said there appeared to be a lack of urgency on behalf of the government, and worried that the process could take months.
More than 2,000 children were separated from their parents as part of the Trump administration’s recent “zero-tolerance” crackdown on illegal immigration - and around 600 of them are in Southwest Key facilities around the country.
It’s not clear how border authorities will meet the deadline set by the California judge.
Earlier Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar refused to be pinned down on how long it would take. He said his department does extensive vetting of parents to make sure they are not traffickers masquerading as parents.