There are still 171 children from separated families in US custody more than four months after a judge ordered the US government to reunite the undocumented immigrant families it had split up at the border, according to court documents filed Thursday.
Of the children who remain in custody, there are seven who are in the pipeline to reunite with their parents in their countries of origin, according to the court documents, and six who the US government is working to discharge to parents in the US.
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But 146 of the kids from separated families who remain in custody -- more than 85% -- will not be reunified with their parents either because the parents have declined reunification or because officials have deemed it cannot occur because the parents are unfit or pose a danger, officials said.
The new numbers appear in the latest federal court filing in the American Civil Liberties Union class action case over family separations.
In June, US District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to reunite most of the families it had divided, comprising parents and children who had been separated as a result of the government's now-reversed "zero tolerance" policy at the border and some separations that had occurred before that policy was put in place.
The reunification process has stretched for months and faced a number of hurdles as members of an ACLU-led steering committee struggled to track down parents who'd been deported without their children.
Sabraw said last month that he hoped the reunification process would come to a close by Friday, but Thursday's filing indicates that the reunifications aren't complete.
Deported parents of 99 kids in custody have said they don't want their children to be returned to their countries of origin. And there are 11 children in government custody for whom the ACLU has not yet provided notice of whether parents want to reunify or decline reunification, officials said.
An additional approximately 48 children who remain in custody include 17 whose parents are in the US but have chosen not to be reunified with their kids, as well as 30 whose parents have been deemed unfit to be reunified. The government says one child can't be reunited at this time with a parent who is in the US because the parent is in criminal detention.
Officials have stressed that the numbers are constantly changing, and attorneys are still debating them as they meet to sort out the next steps in the case.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.