Fifty-four immigrant children separated from their parents will be reunited with their families Tuesday – just a few more than half of the 102 children under five years old the government was court-ordered to reunite by today. Last week, the government reported "under 3,000" children are still in federal custody.
CBS News' Mireya Villarreal spoke to one immigrant parent in El Paso who hasn't seen his 10-year-old daughter in nearly a month. Mario Romero was separated from her after they both crossed the border illegally. According to Romero, after his release from federal custody, he was told he'd be with his daughter in two days. That was two weeks ago. "The truth is that I do not believe them because they say one thing, they say another," Romero tells Villarreal when asked if he trusts the government. "They took my personal documents and delivered them to immigration. I don't know what more proof they want," he says.
The Justice Department and ACLU go back to court Tuesday to decide what protocols officials must follow when reuniting families. The government says DNA tests and fingerprint checks are necessary under federal law to ensure child safety. But the ACLU says the stricter testing is inefficient.
"We're working now with 45 fathers and mothers," said Taylor Levy, a legal coordinator helping to reunite immigrant families.
She said her clients have been asked to send in birth certificates, take fingerprints, and pay for a DNA test. They also have to buy the plane ticket for their child and a roundtrip ticket for an escort if the reunions require travel.
"The system has a lot of good qualities in terms of protecting against trafficking, making sure that children are who they say they are, that the guardians with them or whoever is with them when they cross actually has a right to that child," Levy said. "That's very different from taking a minor child from their father or mother."
Romero says when he finally gets his daughter back, he will not let her leave his side again. "I'm going to give her lots of kisses," he says. "I'll tell her that I love her and that everything's going to be okay."
Customs and Border Protection is trying to manage the surge of asylum seekers they've seen recently. Over the last two months they've had more than 5,200 people enter as families. Of those, there were just seven cases of family separation by CBP.
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