trump cannot deport children Nery (L) and Emiliano (2nd R) pray with their children over the McDonald's food that was given to them as they are cared for in an Annunciation House facility after they were reunited on July 25, 2018 in El Paso, Texas. Nery and Emiliano, originally from Guatamala, were reunited with their children at an ICE processing center about two months after they were separated when they tried to cross into the United States.
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The missing parents are from Trump’s 2017 pilot program to separate families at the border. 

A lawsuit against the US Department of Justice shows that 545 Latino children are without their parents. These children were separated from their families at the border under the Trump administration’s pilot program in 2017, which led to the “Zero Tolerance” policy implemented in 2018. 

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and other firms, filed the lawsuit against the US Justice Department last night, which states they have tracked down more than 1,000 parents that were separated from their children in 2017, except for 545 children. In 2019, a federal judge instructed the ACLU and other groups to locate the parents of the separated children from the 2017 pilot program. 

“As a result, 545 children remain for whom the Steering Committee has not yet reached the separated parent, approximately two-thirds (66%) of whom are believed on the basis of the last information available from the government, to be in their respective countries of origin,” the lawsuit states. “For all of these families, the Steering Committee’s prior telephonic outreach attempts have not been successful in reaching the parent, and as further telephonic outreach attempts are not expected to result in successful contact with the separated parent, the Steering Committee has commenced or intends to commence additional efforts to locate the separated parent.”

“It is critical to find out as much as possible about who was responsible for this horrific practice while not losing sight of the fact that hundreds of families have still not been found and remain separated.”

The filing states that one of the reasons they’ve had difficulties locating parents is due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, they have re-commenced searching for parents where conditions have permitted it to be safe. 

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“It is critical to find out as much as possible about who was responsible for this horrific practice while not losing sight of the fact that hundreds of families have still not been found and remain separated,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project told NBC News. “There is so much more work to be done to find these families.”

He added, “People ask when we will find all of these families, and sadly, I can’t give an answer. I just don’t know. But we will not stop looking until we have found every one of the families, no matter how long it takes. The tragic reality is that hundreds of parents were deported to Central America without their children, who remain here with foster families or distant relatives.”

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Latino Congress members sounded off on this new filing by the ACLU on the remaining separated children. In total, the Trump administration separated more than 5,000 children from their parents

“This is appalling,” Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) tweeted. “The Trump Admin. separated children and lied about it. They deported many of their parents—and more than 500 children still haven’t been reunited. The disregard for human rights in this administration knows no bounds.”

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) tweeted, “As a mother, the pain of having a child ripped away is unbearable to even imagine. I’m horrified for these families and the hundreds of children who are scared & confused without their parents. The Trump admin will never live down the horrors of their child separation policy.”