Photo: Alex Brandon (AP)

The federal judge responsible for overseeing the Trump administration’s hastily-cobbled together family reunification efforts is starting to wonder if, gee, maybe this White House isn’t all that committed to returning undocumented children to their parents after all.

After belatedly meeting its reunification goals for the dozens of children under five years old being held in federal custody, the Department of Health and Human Services turned its attention Friday to the more than 2,000 older kids it still has locked away in a variety of facilities across the U.S.

With a July 26 deadline imposed by Judge Dana Sabraw looming, deputy assistant HHS secretary Chris Meekins filed a declaration in court asserting that his department would indeed return the children to their families by then. But, Meekins asserted, in order to do so, some of its vetting procedures would need to be “truncated.” Doing so, he warned, could run counter to “the mission of HHS or my core values.”

Judge Sabraw wasn’t having it. In a court statement on Friday, Sabrow wrote (emphasis mine):

It is clear from Mr. Meekins’s declaration that HHS either does not understand the court’s orders or is acting in defiance of them. At a minimum, it appears he is attempting to provide cover to defendants for their own conduct in the practice of family separation, and the lack of foresight and infrastructure necessary to remedy the harms caused by that practice.

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An administration that explicitly set out to rip families apart, separating thousands of children from their parents to devastating effect, might not be super-duper on top of rectifying its evil policy? Color me shocked.

HHS, meanwhile, said that it would do everything in its power to reunite the families. In a statement to the Associated Press, HHS spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer struck a much more cooperative tone:

Within the time the court allows, we will strive to implement the most comprehensive procedures possible to ensure child welfare. We look forward to continuing our close work with the court to accomplish the goals we share of safe, expeditious reunification.

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According to the AP, the court has ordered four more hearings between now and the July 26 reunification deadline to coordinate the process.