Attorneys are still trying to reach the parents of 391 migrant children who had been separated at the US-Mexico border under the Trump administration, down from 445 last month, according to a federal court filing Wednesday.
The filing from the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union is part of an ongoing effort to identify and reunite families three years after the so-called “zero tolerance” policy was created.
Since April, the parents of 54 of those children whose whereabouts had been previously unknown have been found, according to Wednesday’s filing.
Under then-President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, border officials separated at least 2,800 children from their parents, according to government data. Officials later found that more than 1,000 children had been separated from their families before Trump’s policy went into effect in 2018. The latest court filing is specific to those families separated under the Trump administration.
Days after President Joe Biden took office, he signed an executive order creating a task force of federal agencies to identify and reunite families who had been separated at the US-Mexico border under the Trump administration. It’s housed in the Department of Homeland Security.
Earlier this month, four families were reunited as part of that effort.
“The first families reuniting this week are mothers, they are sons, they are daughters, they are children who were 3 years old at the time of separation. They are teenagers who have had to live without their parent during their most formative years,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at the time.
Mayorkas described two cases – one woman from Honduras who was separated from her children in late 2017 and another from Mexico who was separated from her son in late 2017 – who were set to be reunited.
The task force has been engaging with groups who are in touch with families and carefully planning their return, taking into account past trauma, Ann Garcia, an attorney who’s been working on assisting separated families with legal and social needs, previously told CNN, noting that some parents are nervous about encountering US Customs and Border Protection again since their last encounters with agents resulted in their kids being taken from them.
As part of the effort, DHS is establishing a process for accepting parole requests, the Department of Health and Human Services is working on facilitating services to support families and the State Department is developing a streamlined system for processing in-country travel document requests. The Justice Department is also involved in related settlement negotiation efforts.