Search persists for parents of 628 kids separated at border

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FILE - This July 26, 2018, file photo shows people lining up to cross into the United States to begin the process of applying for asylum near the San Ysidro port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico. A court-appointed committee has yet to find the parents of 628 children separated at the border early in the Trump administration. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

SAN DIEGO – A court-appointed committee has yet to find the parents of 628 children separated at the border early in the Trump administration, according to a court filing Wednesday that also said the government last week provided additional phone numbers to aid the long-running search.

Parents of 333 children are believed to be in the United States, while parents of the other 295 are believed to be outside the U.S.

That doesn't necessarily mean the parents and children are still separated, only that the committee has been unable to locate the parents. The committee has found other family members for 168 of the 628 children whose parents have yet to be located.

The joint filing by attorneys for the Justice Department and families offers the latest snapshot of efforts to reunite families under a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings that resulted in thousands of separations when parents were criminally prosecuted.

On Nov. 25, the administration provided the search committee with phone numbers and other information from a database of the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review, which manages immigration courts, the filing said.

Lee Gelernt, an attorney representing parents for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he had been pressing the administration for any additional information for the last year.

“We just received this new information the day before Thanksgiving and only because the global outcry over the fact that these parents had not been found,” he said in an interview.

The search committee said it is too early to know how useful the additional phone numbers will be in finding more parents.