Stories played out across the country of frustration as parents faced lengthy bureaucratic hurdles as they tried to recover their children.
Often the adults were released from detention, only to realize that it would be weeks before their children could rejoin them, leaving the minors parked in government facilities. At least two Brazilian mothers sued the government in federal court and won orders for the release of their children from shelters and into their custody. More recently, other mothers have also filed suit to recover their children.
Still, government lawyers said Monday that they needed more time to “safely reunite families.” The Health and Human Services Department must follow procedures that are “time-consuming,” the government told the court.
The chaotic and slow reunions of young children with parents prompted the judge to push Tuesday for faster releases, ultimately forcing the government to change course.
Advocates said they began seeing signs that the administration would waive the requirements on Wednesday: Many young children were released to their parents despite the fact that the adults had not fulfilled previously stipulated steps, like fingerprinting. The government performed DNA tests on some, but not all, of them, some advocates said.
Since learning that the requirements would be streamlined, “we have been strategizing all night, putting our ducks in a row to get parents who are already out of detention to their kids,” said Taylor Levy, legal coordinator at Annunciation House, a nonprofit in El Paso that offers temporary accommodation for migrants.
Ms. Levy said she expected two migrant parents, who were staying just blocks from the shelter where their children were being housed, to be reunited with them as early as Thursday. They had been waiting for several weeks for background checks, including fingerprint processing, to be completed.
“Finally the government is going to do what it needs to do to comply with the deadline,” Ms. Levy said.