There are few policies more unpopular than the Trump administration’s “no tolerance” migration policy to separate thousands of children from parents at the border. Now after a judge put an end to this in 2018, the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a document with the court saying that the parents of 545 children have yet to be found.

According to news reports, government agents separated about 1,000 families as part of a pilot program in 2017, which was not initially part of the judge’s order to reunite the children and parents. Due to the length of the separation, the parents have become difficult for the government to locate.

“What has happened is horrific,” says Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who has been leading the litigation. “Some of these children were just babies when they were separated. Some of these children may now have been separated for more than half of their lives. Almost their whole life, they have not been with their parents.”

The search is back on

The filing points out that an estimated two-thirds of the parents returned to their country of origin. Non-governmental groups appointed by the court have attempted to find the parents in their hometowns, but on-the-ground searches in the communities where they came from have been challenging. The coronavirus pandemic also temporarily stopped the search, which now resumes on a limited basis.

Kids living with sponsors

The children live with sponsors across the United States, rather than incarcerated. But 360 of these children have yet to be located. They will likely stay in the United States. This confusion and separation long after the original misguided policy is a clear example of how damaging this and other immigration decisions by the Trump administration have been to asylum seekers and migrants families. Hopefully, the Biden administration will be able to unite parents and children once it is in office.