Civil rights lawyers attempting to reunite immigrant children separated from their parents by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy reported on Tuesday they had yet to find the parents of 545 of those children.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a grim update with the US District Court for the Southern District of California on Tuesday: it has still not been able to track down the parents of 545 of the immigrant children who were separated from them by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“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. “There is so much more work to be done to find these families.
The ACLU’s filing describes the parents as “unreachable” and notes the various ways in which the organization has attempted to attract the attention of the parents, including soliciting ads in several Central American nations and establishing hotlines for them to call, as well as contacting local non-governmental organizations who work in the communities where the children are believed to be from and sending its own representatives there as well. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly frustrated these efforts, the ACLU notes.
“If you cross the southwest border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you – it’s that simple,” Sessions said at a San Diego news conference at the time. “If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you. If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”
Efforts to free the detained children, many of whom entered the US alone, peaked with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and US District Judge Dolly Gee ordered the children released. Despite this, Gee noted in August that at least 120 children remained in ICE custody.
“Unfortunately, there’s an enormous amount of work yet to be done to find these families – work that will be difficult, but we are committed to doing,” Gelernt told the Washington Post. “Not only are we still looking for hundreds of families, but we would have never even known about these families if the Trump administration had its way.”
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