Lawyers tasked with locating immigrant families who have been separated by the Trump administration say they were unable to reach the parents of 545 children in an effort that was hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a court file Tuesday.
“People keep asking me when we’ll find all the families, and unfortunately I don’t know,” Lee Gelernt, senior lawyer handling the case and deputy director of the Immigrant Rights Project, told BuzzFeed News. ACLU. “Numbers tell a story, but every child has their own story with their own human dimension and that’s why we can’t stop looking until we find every family.”
In 2018, the Trump administration systematically separated thousands of children from their parents as part of a so-called “zero tolerance policy” in which parents were sent to federal prison before going to court. courts for entering the United States without authorization. Because children cannot be sent to federal prison with their parents, the government has separated them, classified them as unaccompanied minors, and transferred them to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
Wednesday’s report stems from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in February 2018 on behalf of a Congolese asylum seeker identified as Ms. L. who had been separated from her 7-year-old daughter by U.S. immigration authorities . The mother and daughter were reunited, but the case was extended to a class action lawsuit covering thousands of immigrant families separated by the US government.
Following last year’s revelation that the Trump administration was in fact separate families from summer 2017 As part of a pilot program, the class was expanded to include 1,030 other children separated from their parents as of July 1, 2017.
On Tuesday, a committee of law firms and nonprofits created by the ACLU to trace separated families attempted to reach the parents of all members of the extended class, successfully reaching those of 485 children. , indicates the report.
Among the parents the committee was unable to reach, the ACLU estimates that about two-thirds have already been deported to their country of origin.
“The contact information the government provided us with was largely out of date, so we searched for families on the ground in Central America … but due to COVID, the field search was halted,” said Gelernt.
He described the situation as “extremely sad,” adding that some of the children, who live with sponsors in the United States ranging from close relatives to foster parents, were just babies when they were first brought home. separated three years ago and “have now spent more than half of their lives separated from their parents. “
The report says that while efforts on the ground have been suspended due to the pandemic, those efforts are starting again.
“The Steering Committee intends to continue the physical field excavations as long as it remains safe to do so, and will continue to keep the Court informed of its progress, particularly if such searches are to be limited or suspended again.” due to travel restrictions or health risks. Says the report.
Adolfo Flores contributed reporting.