Attorneys claim they cannot locate the parents of hundreds of migrant children who were separated from their families at the border.
According to court filings obtained by NBC News, lawyers who were appointed to represent the minors say 545 of those kids are missing parents. Attorneys say they believe approximately two-thirds of the 1,000 plus parents were deported to Central America before they were located or reunited with their families.
The outlet reports about 2,800 families were separated by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol under the Trump administrations’ zero-tolerance policy, which was officially instituted in 2018. As NBC News points out, officials later revealed they began separating families in 2017 as part of a pilot program. Following increasing backlash over the policy, Trump signed an executive order in summer 2018 to reverse it.
“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. 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.”
Attorneys with the ACLU are among the lawyers who were appointed to represent the migrant children. The attorneys say they have been able to contact the parents of more than 550 kids. About two dozen of those parents have a good chance of returning to the United States to be reunited with the kids; however, a number of them have opted to leave their children in the states “due to fear of what will happen” if they return to their home countries. Many of these children will be, or have been, placed with family members or sponsors.