More than two years after the Trump administration formally implemented its family separation policy, lawyers still can’t locate the parents of 666 migrant children.
In the email, New York-based lawyer Steven Herzog wrote that part of the reason new children had been added to the list was because the Trump administration “did not provide any phone number” for their parents. “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 continued.
Herzog is part of a“steering committee” of lawyers that a federal court tasked with reuniting families separated by Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which quietly began in 2017, as part of a pilot program the Department of Homeland Security first conducted in El Paso, Texas. NBC reports that about 2,800 were separated under the zero-tolerance mandate. while 1,000 were separated as part of the pilot program.
Lawyers say it’s the parents in the latter group who have been more difficult to track down since many of them were deported before the court order that they be reunited with their children. But part of the problem is also that DHS did an extraordinarily terrible job of keeping track of parents’ contact information: According to a 2019 report from the Office of Inspector General, DHS lacked the “system functionality” to carry out this evil task, knew this to be true, and moved forward with the separations anyway.
Terrifyingly, this assessment suggests the possibility that the Trump administration may not be withholding the phone numbers Herzog requests in his email—rather, the administration might not have them at all.
“People ask when we will find all of these families, and sadly, I can’t give an answer. I just don’t know,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, told NBC in October. “But we will not stop looking until we have found every one of the families, no matter how long it takes.”