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More than 500 migrant children are still separated from their parents

More than 500 migrant children remain separated from their parents and under the federal government’s care, according to court documents filed this week.

The numbers only improved slightly from what the federal government reported last week.

It’s been nearly a month since the court-imposed deadline for the Trump administration to reunify all migrant families that were separated as part of its “zero tolerance” policy earlier this spring. The administration was expected to reunify more than 2,600 migrant children, age 0-17, with their parents by July 26. The government blew past that deadline, with more than 1,600 children remaining separated when the date passed.

The numbers come from the latest weekly, court-imposed update on where the government stands on the family reunification effort.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw said Friday that the latest report from the combined efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union and the federal government look to be “very encouraging.”

Here’s how the government broke down the latest numbers and how the family reunification process will continue.

What are the latest numbers?

In a status update Thursday, the federal government said of the total 2,654 separated migrant children, 2,126 have been “discharged.” This means the children were either reunified with their parents or placed with a government-approved sponsor within the U.S., among other circumstances, such as a child turning 18 years old.

As of Aug. 20, 2018, 528 children remained separated from their parents. Of those, 23 children are under age 5. This amounts to little improvement from last week’s numbers: 565 total children in U.S. custody, including 24 under age 5. It demonstrates how slow the process has been, especially for the migrant parents who were no longer in the U.S.

Also notable: There are 343 children whose parents are no longer in the U.S. These are parents who have already been deported by immigration officials or left the U.S. voluntarily. Of this group, six children are under age 5. The federal government and the ACLU have focused their most recent efforts in reaching these parents in their home countries.

Here’s how the U.S. further categorizes the parents of the 528 children that remain in U.S. custody:

  • 343 adults are currently outside the U.S.
  • 139 parents “indicated desire against reunification.” It should be noted that there have been personal declarations filed in court that say the parents were coerced into waiving their reunification rights.
  • 45 children are still under U.S. care “where further review shows they were not separated from parents by DHS”
  • 35 adults had a “red flag” in their background checks
  • 19 adults are in federal, state or local custody
  • 17 adults had a “red flag,” concerning safety and well-being
  • 10 adults had a “red flag,” concerning parentage

“It seems like we’re on a very good trajectory here,” Judge Sabraw said in Friday’s hearing.

What’s next?

Both parties are expected to continue providing numbers to the court next week.

The PBS NewsHour’s Patty Gorena Morales contributed to this report.

READ MORE: What happens when migrant children are deported home