HHS now estimates under 3,000 kids separated from parents in government custody

Unaccompanied minors are seen at a facility in Bristow Virginia on June 21. 

Handout. Reuters Unaccompanied minors are seen at a facility in Bristow Virginia on June 21

"HHS knows the identity and location of every minor in the care of our grantees", he said, adding that authorities were working to reunite children with their parents "as expeditiously as possible".

Judge Dana Sabraw had issued an injunction on June 26 requiring the government to reunite detained migrant children under the age of five within 14 days and those over that age within 30 days.

Immigration activists say the that DNA data can be easily abused once it is collected by the USA government, and may be used to track a migrant's whereabouts.

Earlier this week, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it had ordered DNA tests on some 3,000 children in an effort to reunite migrant families.

Azar told reporters on Thursday that officials have identified "under 3,000" children potentially separated from parents.

Azar said HHS is now tasked with reuniting almost 3,000 children with their parents because the court deadline includes children separated before the zero-tolerance policy went into effect.

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The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for both children taken from their parents and those who came to the US with an adult, is now trying to match families. The Trump administration in a court filing late Thursday night requested further guidance from the court on reuniting the families, saying the government may need more time in certain cases.

News reported that the DOJ requested an extension of the court-mandated deadlines to reunite children with their parents.

The federal government is rushing to meet a deadline to reunite thousands of immigrant children separated from their parents under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy.

Azar said that verification process in some cases involves DNA testing.

Jonathan White, a Health and Human Services official, filed a declaration with the court that gives perhaps the most detailed account yet of what the government is doing and the hurdles it faces.

On Thursday, Azar said the Trump administration "will comply" with the deadlines - though he assailed the judge's timetable as "extreme".

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He added that he believed the complexity of the reunifications was caused by the federal judge's "extreme" deadlines and the U.S. immigration system itself - not the Trump administration.

The U.S. Department of Justice asked the U.S. District Court in San Diego to clarify if it would be breaching the court's order if families were reunited after the deadline due to delays in confirming parentage.

The DOJ also expressed concern about the reunification timeline as it determines whether a parent has a criminal history.

Prosecutions have been pursued against illegal immigrants in previous administrations, but they were rarely used on families - a fact that became known among smugglers and migrants, who then began to bring their children in order to take advantage of the family "loophole".

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, had this reaction to the action in court on Friday, according to a news release: "The judge made it very clear he wasn't going to allow the Trump administration to drag its feet on reunifying these children with their parents".

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