The parents of at least 628 migrant children who were separated from their families by the Trump administration in 2017 and 2018 still haven’t been located, lawyers tasked with reuniting the families said in a court filing on Wednesday.
The affected children — whose families were torn asunder under the Trump administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” border policy — have now been without their parents for at least two years.
Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, which is part of a court-appointed “steering committee” that’s been working to reunite separated families, said in the court filing that the parents of at least 295 of the still-separated children have been deported to their countries of origin.
“Our efforts to locate them … are ongoing,” the ACLU said of the parents who have yet to be found.
The ACLU also noted that the Trump administration had only recently provided the steering committee with potentially useful information from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, an agency under the Justice Department. That information included “phone numbers that had not previously been disclosed.”
ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said the Trump administration should’ve provided this information “at least a year ago.”
“We’ve been asking them for any additional information they have forever and we only finally got this information after outcry that parents still could not be found and the issue reached the presidential debate level. This is information we should’ve gotten a year ago, at least a year ago,” Gelernt told CNN.
“We hope we can find a significant number of parents and children through this information. But make no mistake about it: Not only has the Trump administration not been helping us, but it’s now clear they failed to disclose information in their possession,” he added.
The Trump administration requested in the filing to be allowed to update the ACLU on a quarterly basis rather than monthly, “given the relatively low number of separations.”
President-elect Joe Biden has repeatedly lambasted Trump and his administration for separating at least 4,200 children from their parents in 2017 and 2018 ― and for not doing more to help reunite the families that remain separated.
“Their kids were ripped from their arms and separated, and now they cannot find over 500 of the sets of those parents, and those kids are alone. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to go. It’s criminal,” Biden said during the second presidential debate.
Biden has vowed that on his first day as president, he will create a federal task force to reunite separate families.