Nearly two dozen families will soon reunite thanks to the efforts of a group of volunteer lawyers working toward reuniting children and parents who were separated at the border by former President Donald Trump.
Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff of NBC News have reported that “pro bono lawyers tasked by a federal judge with identifying immigrant families separated by the Trump administration have successfully contacted the parents of 23 more children in the past six weeks, according to a report filed in court Wednesday, June 30.”
When these families are reunited, the total number of separated children whose parents have yet to be located will be down to a still-horrifying 368.
“Just because the parents have not been located by the lawyers, however, doesn’t mean the families remain separated,” Ainsley and Soboroff reported. “The parents of some of those 368 children may already have reunited with their children on their own, but because of poor record-keeping by the Trump administration in 2017 and 2018, when families were systematically separated at the southwest border, their status and whereabouts have remained unknown.”
In their court filing, the volunteer legal team working on the migrant children’s behalf said they believed “275 of the 368 remaining children’s parents were deported after they were separated” and “efforts to track those parents down in their home countries are ongoing.”
The parents of 80 remaining children not within that group are believed to be in the United States. Information on the last 13 children and their parents has not been publicly released.
According to Ainsley and Soboroff, “those being contacted now are largely part of a group of separated families that was unknown until a 2019 report from the Health and Human Services Inspector General revealed that potentially thousands of additional families had been separated without the public or lawyers advocating for separated families knowing.”
In legal filings, Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the Trump administration “did not provide a list of those names until late 2019.”
Migrant rights advocates estimate that in 2018 and during an earlier pilot program, more than 5,500 families were broken apart and separated under the Trump administration’s cruel and racist “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. Current administration experts believe more than 2,100 of those families remain separated today.
“While we are making steady progress, there are still far too many families who have not been located, as well as thousands who must be re-contacted to determine their wishes now that the Biden administration is willing to help,” Gelernt said.