Aug. 12 (UPI) — Lawyers tasked with reuniting migrant families separated at the U.S. southern border under a controversial Trump-era immigration policy are still trying to contact the parents of 337 children, according to a Wednesday court filing.
Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union lawyers told the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California in a filing on Wednesday that since their last report in June they have contacted the parents of 31 children they were separated from at the southern border, leaving the parents of 337 children still unaccounted for.
The filing said the parents of 250 children are believed to have been removed from the United States while the parents of 75 children are believed to still be in the country.
Concerning the other 12 children, the lawyers said the government has yet to provide them with a contact number for a parent or guardian.
The steering committee formed to reunite the families has attempted to contact the parents by phone but when those efforts fail they engage in “time-consuming and arduous on-the-ground searches for parents” in the countries of their origin, it said.
“[O]n-the-ground searches for separated parents are ongoing when it is safe to do so, but are limited and in some cases cannot take place due to risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the filing said.
Toll-free telephone numbers in the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador have been established to receive inbound calls from potential parents separated from their children and the steering committee has also mailed letters in Spanish and English to some 1,6000 addresses provided by the government in an attempt to track down the missing parents, it said.
The Biden administration ordered the creation of the Interagency Task Force for the Reunification of Families in February, which said in June that 3,913 children were separated from their families at the southern border in connection to the Trump administration’s “Zero-Tolerance” policy between July 1, 2017, and Jan. 20 when Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
The children were separated as part of the Trump administration’s “Zero-Tolerance” policy, which was technically halted in June 2018.
Since the task force was created, a total of 45 separated children have been reunited with their parents in the United States, the lawyers said in the filing.