Parents not yet found for 545 children separated at US-Mexico border

Most of children were released from custody to sponsors in US, often family members

Migrants charge  phones at a temporary camp in Matamoros, Mexico, near the US border, earlier this year. File photograph: Meghan Dhaliwal/New York Times

Migrants charge phones at a temporary camp in Matamoros, Mexico, near the US border, earlier this year. File photograph: Meghan Dhaliwal/New York Times

 

Lawyers and non-profit organisations seeking to reunite immigrant families separated at the US-Mexico border by the Trump administration have not been able to locate the parents of 545 children so far.

A federal judge ordered thousands of families separated at the border in 2017 and 2018 to be reunited after a 2018 lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

A court filing in the case this week said many parents deported without their children could not yet be located.

“Arduous on-the-ground searches” for parents deported to their countries of origin – many in Central America – have been complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the filing said.

Republican US president Donald Trump in May 2018 implemented a controversial “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute families caught crossing the border illegally and remove their children. Amid international outcry, Mr Trump ended the policy just months after it was announced.

Overall, the government has identified more than 4,200 children who could fall under Judge Dana Sabraw’s reunification order.

A committee formed to locate family members focused on trying to reach families of children for whom the government provided phone numbers for a sponsor or parent. However, as of October 20th, parents of 545 children could not be reached, the filing in US District Court in San Diego – first reported by NBC News – said.

“We’ve contacted these families and the sad truth is that many of them have declined to accept their children back,” White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern told reporters on Wednesday, not addressing the assertion that hundreds of parents could not be reached.

Mr Trump’s Democratic challenger in the November 3rd presidential election, former vice-president Joe Biden, called the news “an outrage”.

Most of the children were released from government custody to sponsors in the United States, often family members. – Reuters