More than 500 children held in Border Patrol custody have now been reunited with their parents and the rest who were separated under the zero-tolerance border policy will be connected within a day, the government said late Saturday.
But the government is still struggling to reunite children who were separated and had already been turned over to social workers from the federal Health Department, and who have been sent to dorms around the country.
There were some 2,053 of those children as of Wednesday, when President Trump signed his executive order ending family separation at the border.
“The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families,” the Health Department said in a statement.
There are three different agencies involved in holding the children nabbed at the border. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, holds the children in the initial hours and days after they are caught.
Those children traveling alone — the so-called Unaccompanied Alien Children, or UAC, in government-speak — are quickly turned over to the Health Department for care.
During the initial days of the zero-tolerance policy those children traveling in families whose parents were taken to criminal justice system jails to face prosecution for illegal entry were also sent to the Health Department. The parents, once their jail time was up, ended up in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities.
Now, under the new executive order, families are to be kept together in ICE facilities even while parents are facing prosecution.
The challenge will be for ICE and the Health Department to coordinate on children who were already separated.
ICE says it’s designated a Texas facility as its main reunification and deportation center.
ICE will allow parents being deported to request that their children be deported with them — though the agency says in the past, many parents have refused that offer and been deported without their children.