A federal judge on Thursday gave the Trump administration six months to identify potentially thousands of immigrant children it ripped from their families under the so-called "zero tolerance" border policy.
The Trump administration previously said it could take two years to identify the separated children, but U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw sided with the ACLU, which sought the six-month deadline.
"This order shows that the court continues to recognize the gravity of this situation," Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement.
BREAKING: Today in our family separation hearing, the court cut down the government’s timeline to identify potentially thousands more children it separated from their parents.
The administration originally proposed a timeline of two years. It now has six months.
— ACLU (@ACLU) April 25, 2019
The immigrant rights coalition Families Belong Together applauded the judge's decision as "good news" and vowed to work to ensure the White House meets the October 25 deadline.
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"The administration has failed to identify children and reunite families over and over again," Families Belong Together tweeted. "Our coalition will be holding Trump officials accountable to this new timeline."
The total number of children separated from their families under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy is unknown, but it is estimated to be in the thousands.
As the Guardian reported, the Trump admininstration "will review about 47,000 cases of unaccompanied children in custody between July 1, 2017 and June 25, 2018—the day before Sabraw halted the general practice of separating families and ordered that children under government care at the time be reunited in 30 days. More than 2,700 children had been separated when Sabraw issued his June order."
The ACLU's Gelernt said earlier this month that the Trump White House's request for two years to identify all of the children it separated "reflects the administration's continuing refusal to treat these separations with the urgency they deserve."
"We are talking about the lives of children, potentially thousands of them," said Gelernt. "The government was able to quickly gather resources to tear these children away from their families and now they need to gather the resources to fix the damage."