July 12 (UPI) -- Two days after a court-mandated deadline, the Trump administration said Thursday most children under age 5 who were separated from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border have been reunited.
Fifty-seven of 103 children under 5 years old in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have been reunited with their parents, an HHS release said.
Of the 46 other children, 22 were not eligible due to safety concerns, the release said.
These concerns included 11 adults with a serious criminal history, one adult with a falsified birth certificate, one alleged to have abused a child, another who planned to house the child with an adult facing charges of sex abuse and another parent being treated for a communicable disease, the department said.
The other 24 were not reunited because of concerns over the adults' whereabouts. This included 12 adults who were deported, nine in custody of U.S. Marshal Service for other offenses, two in state jails for other offenses and one adult in a location that has been unknown for over a year.
"As of this morning, the initial reunifications were completed," HHS Secretary Alex Azar, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a joint statement. "Throughout the reunification process our goal has been the well-being of the children and returning them to a safe environment."
A federal judge ordered on June 26 for children under age 5 separated at the U.S.-Mexico border be reunited in 14 days. Under the same order, all undocumented immigrant children separated from their families must be reunited within 30 days of the order -- a deadline that will fall on July 26.
Up to nearly 3,000 children older than 5 could still be in HHS custody, the agency said.
Many family separations occurred under the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy towards undocumented immigrants announced in April, which prosecutes everyone who crosses the border illegally, even those seeking asylum. Trump signed an executive order last month to stop separating undocumented immigrant children from their families after a national outcry.