Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) lead attorney in the ongoing litigation over family separation, said advocates “told the court we would need to go back to the government if we suspected that there may have been families separated as far back the first six months of the Trump administration,” the report continued.
“We now believe there may have been separations in the first six months of the Trump administration and we applaud the task force for agreeing to review cases during this time period,” Gelernt continued in the report. “Whether the task force finds one or many additional separations, it is essential that we find every last child cruelly taken from their parents by our government.”
The ACLU said in late 2019 that 5,460 children were stolen at the southern border by the previous administration before, during, and after the official family separation policy. “The government identified 2,814 separated children who were in government custody on June 26, 2018,” NBC News reported at the time.
But while Judge Dana Sabraw ordered a stop to the policy that month, border officials exploited a loophole in his ruling and stole an additional 1,090 kids, sometimes based on outright lies, including falsely accusing parents fleeing gang violence of being gang members themselves. One such parent, Adolfo, was separated from his two children based on this lie for 184 days. The ACLU then said that 1,556 kids were stolen beginning in July 2017, months before any policy was officially implemented the following spring.
Attorneys and advocates have worked to reunite children and parents since that June 2018 court decision are still struggling today to put together families broken apart by the previous administration.
In court documents this week, they said they still cannot find the parents of 445 children. “The lawyers believe that the parents of 302 children who have not yet been reached were deported to Central America, while the parents of 129 children are somewhere in the U.S,” another NBC News report said. “The lawyers say the government has not yet provided contact information for the parents of the remaining 14 children.” This was, and remains, a humanitarian disaster.
“Our government, in our name, took kids from their parents without the rudimentary ability to track their location,” America’s Voice said in a statement on Thursday. “As Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) stated on a recent podcast hosted by The Intercept, Stephen Miller ‘should be behind bars’ for his role in ‘heinous human rights violations,’ such as family separation.”