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Immigrant children housed in a tent encampment are shown walking in single file at the facility near the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working to meet a court-set deadline to reunify migrant children with their parents next week but would not take shortcuts to do so, the head of the department said on Thursday.

The government is making efforts to reunite families that had sought to enter the United States illegally and were separated at the Mexican border as part of the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy on immigration.

A federal judge last month set a July 26 deadline for the government to reunite the children and their parents, many of whom were fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

"We're working very hard on doing that," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said. "We will do our best" to meet the July 26 deadline, "but we will not cut corners," Nielsen told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

The families' separation sparked an international outcry, and President Donald Trump ordered that the practice be halted on June 20.

Nielsen said the practice was aimed at deterring child trafficking, and that Congress needed to change immigration laws so that children and parents could be detained together.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington,; Editing by David Alexander and Rosalba O'Brien)

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Reuters