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A government lawyer acknowledged Monday that the Trump administration will miss its first court-imposed deadline to reunite about 100 immigrant children under age 5 with their parents. Department of Justice attorney Sarah Fabian said during a court hearing that federal authorities reunited two families and expect to reunite an additional 59 by Tuesday’s deadline. She said the other cases are more complicated, including parents who have been deported or are in prison facing criminal charges, and would require more time to complete reunions. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the administration to reunite families separated as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, said he will hold another hearing Tuesday morning to get an update on the remaining cases. He said he was encouraged to see “real progress” in the complicated reunification process after a busy weekend when officials from multiple federal agencies tried to sync up parents and children who are spread across the country. STORY FROM LENDINGTREE Crush your mortgage interest with a 15 yr fixed “Tomorrow is the deadline. I do recognize that there are some groups of parents who are going to fall into a category where it’s impossible to reunite by tomorrow,” he said. “I am very encouraged by the progress. I’m optimistic.” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who leads a lawsuit against the federal government, sounded more skeptical. When asked by the judge if he believed the government was in full compliance of the court order, Gelernt said there was much more work to be done. “Let me put it this way: I think the government in the last 48 hours has taken significant steps,” he said. “We just don’t know how much effort the government has made to find released parents. I don’t think there’s been full compliance.” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. (Photo: U.S. District Court) The difficulty in reuniting the first 100 children shows the challenge that lies ahead as the Trump administration braces for another deadline in two weeks to reunite nearly 3,000 older children – up to age 17 – with their parents. The process is complicated because of all the different situations that emerged over the weekend. The government initially identified 102 children under age 5 who needed to be reunited but removed three children from that list because investigations into their cases revealed that those children came with adults who were not their parents, Fabian said. Twelve parents were found to be in federal and state custody on criminal charges, making a reunification impossible since the government can’t transfer minors to state and local prisons to protect the well-being of the child. Nine parents were deported, and the government established contact with only four of them, Fabian said. Four children had been scheduled to be released from government custody to relatives who weren’t their parents, leading the government to question whether to allow that process to be completed or to redirect the child back to a parent. Gelernt said he understood many of the hurdles but urged the judge to force the government to scrap its time-consuming investigation into every single case and start a 48-hour clock to reunify families that remain separated by Tuesday. Sabraw said he would decide that during Tuesday’s hearing. Fabian said one of the silver linings of the busy weekend is that her office worked closely with its challengers at the ACLU to share information on each child’s case, to ensure that representatives from immigration advocacy groups and volunteer organizations could be present during each reunification. Gelernt said they’re doing that to help the parents, who are often released from custody with no money and nowhere to go. Fabian said that coordination has led to a more formalized process between government agencies and with the immigrants’ lawyers that should make reunifications go more smoothly in the coming weeks. “I think this process over the weekend helped us see what information, and in what form, is the most useful to share,” she said. “I’d like to make that as efficient a process as possible.” -

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U.S. concerned about threats to Sochi Olympics, offers help

QuestCinq.com/N3ews

BY MARK HOSENBALL

WASHINGTON

(Reuters) – The U.S. government is concerned Islamist militants may be preparing attacks aimed at disrupting the Winter Olympic games in Sochi in February and is offering closer cooperation on security with Russia despite strains earlier this year.

Two bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd in the past two days – one at the city’s central railway station and another on a bus – killed dozens of people and raised anxieties about the safety of the Olympics.

One militant group issued explicit direct threats to disrupt the Olympics, a State Department official said. Other officials said that regions near Sochi were among the areas of Russia currently most prone to Islamic militancy and other unrest.

“There are clearly sensitivities in our relationship with Moscow but enhancing Olympic security and counterterrorism efforts more broadly are areas of clear mutual interest,” one U.S. official said.

“The Volgograd bombings underscore the threat and the need to work hand in hand with Russia in order to ensure the protection of U.S. citizens participating in and attending thegames in Sochi,” the official said.

U.S. security officials said the government was not surprised by the Volgograd bombings and had anticipated that such attacks might well occur in the run-up to the games.

The officials said U.S. and Russian authorities have engaged in extensive contacts regarding security preparations for the Olympics. The United States is expected to share with Russia information it might collect about possible threats to the games.

“We’re taking lots of security precautions” related to the Winter Games, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden condemned the Volgograd attacks, which were blamed on suicide bombers.

She said the U.S. government had “offered our full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games, and we would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety of the athletes, spectators, and other participants.”

The State Department is expected to caution U.S. travelers on Monday about possible bombings and hostage takings in Russia, particularly in the North Caucasus region, which is less than 100 miles from Sochi.

The U.S. offer for closer cooperation with Russia follows two issues earlier this year that raised tensions between U.S. and Russian security agencies: the involvement of two Chechen brothers in the Boston Marathon bombing and Russia’s granting temporary asylum to former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Nonetheless, in November, Matthew Olsen, director of the government’s U.S. National Counter-terrorism Center, said his agency was “coordinating and integrating the intelligence community’s support … to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.”

Olsen told a Senate committee he had visited Sochi a few days earlier and met Russian intelligence and security officials to discuss the games.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Bill Trott)

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