A group of lawyers appointed by a federal judge to identify immigrant families separated from the Trump administration say they cannot find the parents of 545 children.
According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, about two-thirds of these parents were deported to Central America without their children, according to NBC News.
The Trump administration introduced a zero-tolerance policy in 2018 that separated migrant children and parents on the US southern border. However, it was later discovered that as part of a pilot program in 2017, the government had actually started separating families along some parts of the border.
The ACLU and other pro bono law firms were hired to find the family members who were separated during the pilot program. Many of the 1,000-plus parents separated from their children as part of this program had been deported before a federal judge in California ordered them to be found.
“It is important to find out as much as you can about who was responsible for this horrific practice without losing sight of the fact that hundreds of families have still not been found and are being separated,” said Lee Gelernt, assistant director the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “There is so much more to be done to find these families.”
“People ask when we will find all these families, and unfortunately I cannot answer. I just don’t know, “said Learned. “But we won’t stop looking until we’ve found all families, no matter how long it takes. The tragic reality is that hundreds of parents have been deported to Central America without their children staying with foster families or distant relatives. “
Of the 1,000 separated families, the committee tasked with finding them was able to contact the parents of more than 550 children and believes that about 25 of them may have the opportunity to return to the United States for reunification.
Learned said some of the families contacted had chosen to keep their children in the US with other family members or godparents, “for fear of what will happen to their child when they return to their home countries”.
The Justice in Motion group is physically looking for the separated parents in Mexico and Central America. “Although we have already tracked down many deported parents, we are still trying to reach hundreds,” the group said in a statement. “It’s a tedious 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 safety and that of parents and their communities. “
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