The federal judge overseeing the reunification of more than 2,500 migrant families separated by Donald Trump's administration said the government's efforts were "disappointing" - and it was its responsibility to unite them.
"What is absolutely essential.is that the government identify a single person of the same talent and energy and enthusiasm and can-do spirit as Commander White to head up the reunification process of the remaining parents", Sabraw said.
Despite a court-ordered deadline of July 26 to reunite all families separated at the border, the government revealed on Thursday that 572 children remain in US custody. And the reality is that for every parent who is not located there will be a permanently orphaned child.
His remarks in a conference call came a day after the administration and the ACLU submitted widely divergent plans on how to reunify more than 500 still-separated children, including 410 with parents outside the United States.
The government, meanwhile, said in a court-ordered joint status report filed Thursday that the ACLU should use its "considerable resources and their network of law firms, NGOs, volunteers and others" to find deported parents and orchestrate reunification.
ACLU lawyers pushed back against the Trump administration's demands to find the deported parents, saying that they will do "whatever they can" but that the government must bear the ultimate burden.
The families were separated as part of a "zero tolerance" US government policy toward illegal immigration that began in early May.
Of 2,551 children ages 5-17 who were separated from their parents, 1,979 have been released from shelters overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services' refugee office - almost 160 more than a week earlier. But Sabraw said that ACLU lawyers, who are representing plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, are not the ones who separated the families in the first place.More news: Crusaders flanker Jordan Taufua out of Super Rugby final with broken arm
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The number of children whose parents are presumably still in the country, but whose whereabouts are unknown to the government, declined sharply in the past week - from 94 to 15, according the data, which covered through midday Wednesday. They reasoned that the ACLU was in a better position to provide legal advice to the parents, which civil rights attorneys said had not been addressed before.
"This responsibility, of course, is 100 percent on the government", he said. It questioned why the government has not made that clear to date and hasn't made more progress on that front.
Sabraw said he plans to file an order in the coming days requiring the government to continue providing information and updates and to assign a competent leader to take charge.
The ACLU noted that the government seemed not to have addresses for some 120 of the deported parents.
The administration has maintained that any parents deported without their children willingly left without them.
The United States government has far more resources than any group of NGOs, the ACLU argued, and it was the federal government's "unconstitutional separation practice" that caused the crisis.
A Trump administration official told Politico late last month that records for about three quarters of the deported parents show that they did not agree to leave their children in the USA alone-directly contradicting Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's claim that "these are parents who have made the decision not to bring the children with them".
"The Trump administration chose to rip families apart as a matter of policy to punish people for seeking asylum".