The Justice Department on Wednesday said a judge’s order to reunite families separated at the border “makes it even more imperative” that Congress pass legislation that would enable it “to simultaneously enforce the law and keep families together.”
Otherwise, the administration says, “lawlessness at the border will continue.”
The administration was responding to a federal judge’s order Tuesday that U.S. border authorities must reunite separated families within 30 days. If the children are younger than 5, they must be reunited with families within 14 days of the order.
Trump had already signed an order ending family separations and said families would be detained together. But Sabraw’s order forces the administration to adhere to a timeline and quickly address families affected by the hardline policy embraced earlier this spring.
Health and Human Services, which takes charge of the children, referred questions to the Justice Department.
“Last night’s court decision makes it even more imperative that Congress finally act to give federal law enforcement the ability to simultaneously enforce the law and keep families together,” wrote the Justice Department in a statement.
Both chambers of Congress are working on legislation aimed at ending separation of migrant families, but there’s not been agreement on including a specific timetable in the legislation.
It’s not clear how border authorities will meet the latest deadline. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Congress on Tuesday that his department still has custody of 2,047 immigrant children separated from their parents at the border. That is only six fewer children than the number in HHS custody as of last Wednesday.