Immigrant Children Under 5 Will Be Returned to Parents by Next Week, U.S. Official Says

The U.S. will return immigrant children under five who were separated from their parents after crossing the Mexican border by July 10 to comply with a court order, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.

The agency is analyzing the DNA of some children in its custody and adults who claim to be their parents to verify a family relationship, Azar said. He said the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is responsible for detaining and caring for undocumented immigrant children apprehended by authorities, is not sure precisely how many kids came into its care as a result of the Border Patrol taking them from their families.

The ORR program “was not designed to track the circumstances” behind a child’s arrival in the U.S., Azar said, and the Department of Homeland Security didn’t tell the refugee agency which children were taken from parents and which came over the border unaccompanied. The agency is now reviewing the cases of all 11,800 children in its custody to determine whether they were separated from caregivers.

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