Parents of 666 migrant children missing, higher than originally thought

Lawyers who have been tasked with finding the parents of migrant children told a judge last month that the number was 545

Lawyers are now of the belief that 666 parents of migrant children separated from their children at the border cannot be located, a figure much larger than originally suspected.

Steven Herzog, the attorney leading efforts to reunite the separated migrant children with their families, made the declaration in an email obtained by NBC News. The outlet reported on Monday that sources who had viewed data claimed that 20% of the children separated were five and under when taken from their parents.

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Herzog reportedly wrote in an email that the discrepancy was related to “for whom the government did not provide any phone number.”

This December 2019 photo shows Honduran asylum seeker, Christopher, 6, standing with his father on the international bridge from Mexico to the United States in the border town of Matamoros, Mexico. They were waiting to be taken by U.S. officials to an immigration court hearing in Brownsville, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Just last month, theGrio reported that attorneys appointed by a federal judge to locate these children believed they were unable to find 545 of the parents who were separated from their children. Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union claimed two-thirds of those parents had been deported to Central America and there was no subsequent trace of their current location. Others may have returned to their home countries.

“What has happened is horrific,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, told NPR in October. “Some of these children were just babies when they were separated. Some of these children may now have been separated for more than half of their lives. Almost their whole life, they have not been with their parents.”

In 2017, the Trump administration adopted a zero-tolerance policy in which immigrants found crossing the U.S.-Mexico border would be prosecuted, even those who had underage children. Data from the Customs and Border Protection between May and June 2018 shows that almost 3,000 children were separated from their parents. Stephen Miller, a senior policy advisor to President Donald Trump, who crafted his immigration policy, wanted more separations to deter illegal immigration, according to multiple reports.

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Hoisting paper dolls representing children in detention, protesters rally in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters, demanding the release of immigrants in ICE detention due to the dangers posed by the coronavirus pandemic July 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“If we don’t enforce this, it is the end of our country as we know it,” Miller allegedly said.

Though Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen opposed the separations due to personnel limitations and the challenge of keeping up with the children, she ultimately signed off on the plan.

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“Miller was tired of hearing about logistical problems,” one of the officials said. “It was just ‘Let’s move forward and staff will figure this out.'”

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw rescinded the policy last April and ordered the children to be reunited with their families. Sabraw gave the government six months to account for the missing migrant families.

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