According to Tuesday’s court filing, lawyers have not been able to reach the parents of 545 children who had been separated from their families by US border officials between 2017 and 2018.
Hundreds of parents are believed to have been deported without their children, who remain in the US with sponsors or distant relatives after being released from government custody.
“545 children remain for whom the Steering Committee has not yet reached the separated parent, approximately two-thirds (66%) of whom are believed on the basis of the last information available from the government, to be in their respective countries of origin,” the filing states.
The filing from the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union is part of an effort to reunite families that have been separated by the “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
As of October 20, the court-appointed Steering Committee has attempted to reach the families of 1,030 separated children.
Of those, the ACLU has located 485 parents so far, the organization told a federal court on Tuesday.
ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said some of the families have elected to keep their children in the US “due to fear of what will happen to their child if they return” to their home countries.
Covid-19 has limited physical on-the-ground searches for separated parents, according to the filing.
“Even before Covid, it was hard enough finding these families, but we will not stop until we’ve found everyone,” said Gelernt.
On Tuesday, Gelernt tweeted that some of the children were “just babies when taken years ago.”
Although the pandemic has presented challenges, the group Justice in Motion is continuing to physically search for the separated parents in Mexico and Central America. They have successfully located the parents of 187 children.
“While we have already located many deported parents, there are hundreds more who we are still trying to reach,” the group said in a statement.