05 December 2020
A court-appointed committee has not yet found the parents of 628 children separated at the United States-Mexico border since 2017.
They were separated under a "zero tolerance" policy on illegal border crossings. The policy resulted in thousands of separations when parents were charged as criminals.
The parents of 333 children are believed to be in the U.S., while those of the other 295 are believed to be outside the country.
That does not mean the parents and children are still separated. It only means that the committee has been unable to find the parents. The committee has found other family members for 168 of the 628 children whose parents have not been found.
On November 25, the Trump administration gave the committee phone numbers and other information to assist the search.
Lee Gelernt is a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which represents the parents. He said he had been asking the administration for any additional information for the last year.
"We just received this new information the day before (the American holiday of) Thanksgiving and only because the global outcry over the fact that these parents had not been found," he told the Associated Press.
The search committee said it is too early to know how useful the additional phone numbers will be in finding more parents.
In June 2018, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered an end to the "zero-tolerance" policy. He ordered the children and parents reunited within 30 days. At that time, more than 2,700 children were separated from their parents.
The 628 children whose parents have not been found were separated before the judge's order, going back to July 1, 2017. The children were all released by the government before the June 2018 order and their families are difficult to find because the government kept poor records. They include hundreds of children separated during a test of the policy in El Paso, Texas, from July to November 2017, that was not known to the public at the time.
During the final weeks of his campaign, President-elect Joe Biden promised he would create a special committee to find the parents.
The ACLU wants Biden to permit separated families to return to the United States and to receive "some kind of legal status." Gelernt added, "We think that's only fair given what they've been put through."
Volunteers have searched for parents by phone and by going house-to-house in Central America. The effort was stopped by the coronavirus health crisis. The committee has also mailed letters to 1,600 possible families and established free telephone numbers in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for them to call.
I'm Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported on this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
zero tolerance – n. a policy of giving the most severe punishment possible to every person who commits a crime or breaks a rule
global – adj. worldwide
outcry – n. an expression of strong disapproval by many people
special – adj. different from what is normal or usual
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