Judge urges US to help find parents deported without kids

SAN DIEGO (AP) – A federal judge on Thursday urged the Trump administration to do more to help court-appointed researchers find hundreds of parents who were separated from their children after they crossed the United States (US)-Mexico border beginning in 2017.

A court filing revealed this week that researchers have been unable to track down the parents of 545 children – a number much larger than previously known and that drew outcry. Most of the parents were deported to their Central American homelands, and their children were placed with sponsors in the US, often relatives.

US District Judge Dana Sabraw refrained from issuing an order during a hearing in San Diego and instead asked Justice Department attorneys to explore ways the administration can make it easier to find the parents.

Attempts to find families separated from their children have been underway since Sabraw ordered the government in 2018 to end the much-criticised practice under its “zero tolerance” policy for people who cross the border illegally.

Sabraw initially ordered the government to reunite more than 2,700 children with their families, believing that to be the total number who were separated. But it was later discovered an additional 1,556 children were taken from their parents going back to summer 2017, including the 545 kids who are still separated.

An asylum-seeking boy from Central America runs down a hallway after arriving from an immigration detention centre to a shelter in San Diego. PHOTO: AP