'Meaningful closure' could soon highlight family reunifications

Federal district judge calls it 'promising'

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET AND TAL KOPAN, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The latest report from government and American Civil Liberties Union attorneys about reunifications of families separated at the southern border is "very promising," U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said Friday.

Sabraw praised the government's recent efforts to conduct three-way calls to help the ACLU-led steering committee reach deported parents.

"So it would appear in the next few weeks the parties will be able to report to the court and the public that all parents have been contacted and their wishes have been communicated, and then we will simply be in a position of effecting their repatriation or pursuing ... sponsorship relief for children in country?" Sabraw said.

ACLU attorney Anand Balakrishnan said that was correct.

"Yes, your honor, we are hopeful that in the next few weeks we will reach the end of the process with continued cooperation from the government," he said.

Sabraw did note that government data on the progress of contacting parents and reunifications is difficult to understand.

It's "essentially who's on first in how the government's calculating the numbers," Sabraw said. "I have the same confusion. It appears that everything is working very smoothly, but the plaintiffs have a different set of numbers than the government, and I share the plaintiffs' confusion in that regard."

Ultimately, he said, the government and ACLU attorneys will need to submit a final status report in which their numbers agree.

"We're on track toward some meaningful closure in the not-too-distant future," Sabraw said.

Since things are proceeding smoothly, Sabraw said, both parties will submit status reports next Thursday but there will not be a hearing scheduled unless an issue arises.

All told, more than 2,000 children have been reunited with parents and more than 240 have been released to someone else deemed suitable of out of the more than 2,600 the government identified as being separated from a parent before it stopped separating undocumented immigrant families at the southern border in June.

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