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Local expert explains challenges of reuniting hundreds of migrant children with parents

Posted at 5:52 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 20:52:47-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The parents of more than 600 migrant children still haven’t been found, more than two and a half years after thousands of children were separated from their parents at the border.

The separations happened from 2017 to 2018, as part of President Trump’s zero tolerance policy.

According to a tweet from the ACLU, the parents of 666 migrant children have not been found, that number is over 100 more than what was reported during a court hearing in late October.

The zero tolerance policy started in 2017, when over 2,700 children were separated from their parents after crossing the U.S. - Mexico border. The policy was ended by San Diego federal Judge Dana Sabraw in 2018.

Last month, the same judge asked the Trump administration to do more to help find the children’s parents.

Richard Villasana is the founder of Forever Homes for Foster Kids, a San Diego charity that helps locate families of children in the U.S. foster care system, often times working in Latin American countries.

“Some of these children will never be reunited with their parents because there was just not enough information to work with,” says Villasana.

The ACLU says the children’s parents are believed to be in their home countries. Villasana says the process of finding relatives in other countries is very complicated, often times only having a last name or a city to work with. Other times, Villasana says, volunteers have to depend on the child’s memory for information, which can be challenging if they are too young.

“Depending upon their age, they’re probably not going to be of any help to help the attorneys with ACLU and those non-profits to connect them to their parents,” explains Villasana.

As reunification efforts continue, Villasana expects that it will be years before these children’s parents are found and he says it’s likely some will never be located.

Another court hearing is scheduled in San Diego on December 4th.