Talking Points Memo reports:
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters on a conference call on Thursday that his department will meet the deadlines imposed by federal courts to reunify thousands of immigrant children who were taken from their families and detained in separate facilities, but admitted they have yet to send a single child to rejoin their parents in immigration detention.
On the call, an exasperated-sounding Azar characterized the immigrant parents as criminals for bringing their children in the first place, dismissed reports of abuse in his detention centers as “the theater of politics,” and repeatedly suggested that immigrants claiming to be parents are in fact unrelated to the children taken from them. Still, Azar insisted his agency would comply with the court’s order. “We have a plan in place to get this job done,” he said.
Azar said HHS is working “overtime” to confirm that the people who purportedly are parents of those children actually are their parents, and is also checking to see if any parents have a background that makes them dangerous to receive a child. Azar said that verification process in some cases involves DNA testing.
HHS has until Tuesday to reunite children up to the age of 4 with their parents in the custody of Immigration and Custom Enforcement, and a deadline of July 26 to reunite the remaining kids. He said 100 kids in HHS custody now are under the age of 5. U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw issued the deadlines last week.