Lawyers Can't Find Parents of 545 Migrant Children Separated By Trump Administration
In 2017, at least 1,000 parents were separated from their children at the border because of the Trump administration's pilot program.
On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union stated in a court filing that lawyers who were appointed by a federal judge to identify migrant families separated by the Trump administration have yet to track down the parents of 545 children. Additionally, about two-thirds of those parents were deported to Central America without their children.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, in 2017, at least 1,000 parents were separated from their children at the border because of the Trump administration's pilot program. In 2018 they introduced a "zero tolerance" policy that separated even more migrant children and parents at the border. The ACLU and other pro-bono law firms were given the task of finding the families who had been separated. They were able to contact the parents of 550 children, but only 25 of them may be able to return to the U.S. to reunite with them.
Justice in Motion is also assisting in the search for the separated families, covering areas in Mexico and Central America. "While we have already located many deported parents, there are hundreds more who we are still trying to reach," the organization said in a statement. "It's an arduous and time-consuming process on a good day. During the pandemic, our team of human rights defenders is taking special measures to protect their own security and safety, as well as that of the parents and their communities."
"It is critical to find out as much as possible about who was responsible for this horrific practice while not losing sight of the fact that hundreds of families have still not been found and remain separated," Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, told NBC News. "There is so much more work to be done to find these families."
"People ask when we will find all of these families, and sadly, I can't give an answer. I just don't know," Gelernt added. "But we will not stop looking until we have found every one of the families, no matter how long it takes. The tragic reality is that hundreds of parents were deported to Central America without their children, who remain here with foster families or distant relatives."
Other organizations like Immigrant Families Together, which is an organization dedicated to reuniting immigrant families separated at the border, are asking for donations to help reunite these families.