Lawyers said they are still seeking to locate the parents of 445 children who were separated from one another at the U.S-southern border. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo
April 8 (UPI) -- Lawyers tasked with reuniting hundreds of migrant families separated at the U.S. southern border under Trump administration immigration policies said in court filings late Wednesday that they have located the parents of 61 children since February.
The Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union told the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California in the filing that they have reduced the number of children whose parents they have been unable to contact from 506 to 445.
The lawyers said the parents of 302 of those remaining children have been deported, while the parents of 129 children are believed to be in the United States and efforts to locate them are ongoing. Concerning another 14 children, the lawyers said the government has yet to provide them with a phone number for either a parent, child, sponsor or attorney.
Where they have been unsuccessful to find the parents of these migrant children, the lawyers have conducted "time-consuming and arduous" on-the-ground searches that have "been focused abroad in the countries of origin of parents who were removed from the United States following separation from their children," they said in the filing.
Advocates have said thousands of migrant families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under former President Donald Trump's controversial "zero-tolerance" policy.
The policy was halted in June 2018 when the ACLU was awarded an injunction. Since then, court-appointed lawyers have been seeking to reunite those families.
In February, President Joe Biden signed a series of immigration-centered executive orders directing Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to create a task force to reunify families.
Later that month, the court-appointed lawyers said in court filings that they had whittled down the number of children for whom they were unable to locate the parents by 105 from 611 to 506.
On March 1, Mayorkas released principles for the family reunification task force, which is headed by Michelle Brane.
"We are dedicating our resources throughout the Department of Homeland Security and the federal government, and bringing our full weight to bear, to reunite children who were cruelly separated from their parents," Mayorkas said in a statement. "It is our moral imperative to not only reunite the families, but provide them with the relief, resources and service they need to heal."