Lawyers can’t find families of 666 migrant kids torn from parents by the Trump administration

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Lawyers can’t find families of 666 migrant kids taken from their parents at the US-Mexico border by the Trump administration – 100 more than first thought

  • Steven Herzog, the attorney leading efforts to reunite families, revealed the parents of 666 children could still not be located 
  • This is 121 more than the 545 reported by lawyers last month  
  • Herzog sent an email to Justice Department attorneys representing the Trump administration with the new number 
  • It includes those ‘for whom the government did not provide any phone number’
  • A third of the children were also under 5 at the time of separation, a source said
  • Thousands of undocumented migrant parents and children were torn apart at the border by Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy 
  • The policy came into force in April 2018 and sparked an instant backlash and a judge ordered families be reunited just months later
  • It also emerged the Trump administration had secretly begun a pilot programme separating families at the border in El Paso, Texas, a year earlier in 2017

Lawyers cannot find the parents of 666 migrant children torn from their families at the US-Mexico border by the Trump administration, over 100 more than they previously thought. 

The American Civil Liberties Union said in October that parents of 545 children had still not been located more than two years after being separated by Donald Trump‘s controversial ‘zero tolerance’ policy.

But Steven Herzog, the attorney leading efforts to reunite the families, revealed the number of separated children for whom they have not been able to locate parents is even greater.  

Herzog sent an email to Justice Department attorneys representing the Trump administration saying that 666 children – an additional 121 than previously reported – are still without their parents.

Lawyers cannot find the parents of 666 migrant children torn from their families at the US-Mexico border by the Trump administration, over 100 more than they previously thought. Pictured children at the Tornillo Port of Entry encampment in 2018

The new group includes those ‘for whom the government did not provide any phone number’, he wrote in the email, obtained by NBC News.

‘We would appreciate the government providing any available updated contact information, or other information that may be helpful in establishing contact for all 666 of these parents,’ he wrote.    

The 666 ‘includes individuals in addition to 545 for whom we got no information from government that would allow meaningful searches but are hopeful the government will now provide with that information,’ Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, told NBC News.  

Thousands of families were torn apart by Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy where undocumented migrant parents and children were separated at the border between the US and Mexico.

The policy came into force in April 2018 and sparked an instant backlash as shocking images quickly surfaced of children being kept in cages. 

Two months later in June, a judge ordered that children and parents be reunited within 30 days and thousands of families were then brought back together.

Illegal border crossers at the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas in 2018. The American Civil Liberties Union said in October that parents of 545 children had still not been located more than two years after being separated by Trump's 'zero tolerance' policy

Illegal border crossers at the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas in 2018. The American Civil Liberties Union said in October that parents of 545 children had still not been located more than two years after being separated by Trump's 'zero tolerance' policy

Illegal border crossers at the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas in 2018. The American Civil Liberties Union said in October that parents of 545 children had still not been located more than two years after being separated by Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy

Honduran migrant families recently released from federal detention sit inside a bus depot in 2019 in McAllen, Texas. Herzog sent an email to Justice Department attorneys saying that 666 children - an additional 121 than previously reported - are still without their parents

Honduran migrant families recently released from federal detention sit inside a bus depot in 2019 in McAllen, Texas. Herzog sent an email to Justice Department attorneys saying that 666 children - an additional 121 than previously reported - are still without their parents

Honduran migrant families recently released from federal detention sit inside a bus depot in 2019 in McAllen, Texas. Herzog sent an email to Justice Department attorneys saying that 666 children – an additional 121 than previously reported – are still without their parents

However it also emerged the Trump administration had secretly begun a pilot programme separating families at the border in El Paso, Texas, a year earlier in 2017.  

These families were not protected by the court order and a judge only ordered their reunification in 2019.

Most of the children in Herzog’s email are among those separated in the 2017 trial programme but some were part of the zero tolerance programme. 

Around a third of the children were also under five years old at the time of separation, a source told NBC. 

This means many of the children will still be less than 8 years of age and have now been apart from their parents for up to three years.  

Joe Biden vowed during his election campaign that he would sign an executive order to form a task force to reunite the migrant children with their families.  

Trump at the border wall in Arizona in 2020. Thousands of families were torn apart by Trump's 'zero tolerance' policy where undocumented migrant parents and children were separated at the border between the US and Mexico

Trump at the border wall in Arizona in 2020. Thousands of families were torn apart by Trump's 'zero tolerance' policy where undocumented migrant parents and children were separated at the border between the US and Mexico

Trump at the border wall in Arizona in 2020. Thousands of families were torn apart by Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy where undocumented migrant parents and children were separated at the border between the US and Mexico

During the second presidential debate in October, he slammed Trump for the policy.

‘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,’ Biden said. 

‘Nowhere to go. Nowhere to go. It’s criminal. It’s criminal,’ he said.

Trump said in the debate the administration was ‘trying very hard’ to reunite the families but claimed many of the children had ‘come over through cartels and through coyotes and through gangs.’

However, despite Biden’s campaign pledge, he is yet to decide whether the parents can remain in the US and pursue asylum, two sources told NBC.    

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