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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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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: ‘We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families’

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Hours after the most recent mass killing in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott went to the city where it happened just outside of Houston and said that unity and faith might not be enough to curb the shootings in his state.

The Republican governor, a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, inched toward exploring a new approach to gun safety. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and a politician with an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, stood beside him.

“We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families,” Abbott said. “It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again.”

Next week, Abbott will play host to round-table discussions with parents, school leaders and lawmakers to explore remedies to gun violence in Texas, where eight mass killings have taken place in the past 50 years or so. Abbott also wants to hear from gun-rights advocates.

► The shooting: 10 dead after gunman opens fire at Texas high school
► The victims: What we know about the Texas high school shooting victims
► The suspect: Dimitrios Pagourtzis hid firearms under long coat

The governor said he would support adopting regulations to speed up the background-check process for people buying guns and those that would ensure people “who pose immediate danger” can’t purchase weapons.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who also joined Abbott in Santa Fe, argued that the state can do more to harden targets like churches and schools — both sacred places in the Lone Star State.

Patrick did not call for specific gun regulations but said the state should re-evaluate the number of entrances and exits at schools. He also urged parents to keep their guns properly stored and away from their children.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, the suspect in the Santa Fe High School shooting, used two guns that belonged to his father, a shotgun and a revolver.

“If you’re a parent and you own guns, lock your guns safely away,” Patrick said. “Your children should not be able, or anyone else, get your legally owned guns. It’s a serious issue and one big step we can take.”

Cruz bemoaned the frequency of the mass killings in Texas. The most recent one was barely six months ago at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.

“There have been too damn many of these,” said Cruz. “Texas has seen too many of these.”

Republican leaders have long advocated for more lax gun laws in Texas. In 2015, state lawmakers passed an open-carry law that allows Texans with gun licenses to openly carry handguns.

They also enacted “campus carry,” permitting licensed Texans to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.

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► White House: President Trump promises action after Texas school shooting

Gyl Switzer, executive director of Texas Gun Sense, said in a statement that the state needs to a better job of protecting children.

“We Texans love our children,” she said. “There are proven strategies to reduce senseless gun violence.”

Follow Eleanor Dearman and Madlin Mekelburg on Twitter: @CallerEllyand @madlinbmek

Source: USATODAY

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