More than 2,500 children are waiting to be reunited with their parents after being separated at the US border, according to the latest government estimate.
The number was revealed for the first time on Friday as the US government gave its first indications of how reunions of those thousands of parents and children could go, reports CNN.
There are about 2,551 children between the ages of five and over in government custody who could be eligible for those reunions, administration officials wrote in a court filing on Friday.
The reunions of those children with their parents will occur in six to eight designated Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, according to the filing.
Officials will use a new, streamlined vetting process to facilitate reunions by the court-ordered deadline of July 26.
In a statement following the filing, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department HHS spokeswoman Evelyn Stauffer said: “This number represents the total possible cohort of minors who could potentially be subject to the court order, and, based on past experience, includes a significant number of minors who cannot or should not be reunified with the adults in question.”
The government noted that things will proceed differently for these reunions from the ones for the children under age five, because of previous rulings in the ongoing lawsuit over family separations at the border and lessons learned from the earlier reunions, which numbered fewer than 60.
The new steps does not include DNA-testing and background checking of the families, CNN reported.
President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy to prosecute all adults crossing the border illegally resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their parents after entering the US, though this case was filed long before that policy and affects almost all families separated at the border still in government custody.
After an initial backlash, Trump signed an executive order aimed at keeping families together at the border.