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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The U.S. cannot locate the parents of 545 migrant children separated under a 2017 pilot program as part of President Trump’s immigration policy, NBC News first reported, citing a filing from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Why it matters: The number of parents who are currently considered “unreachable” is larger than was previously known. Search efforts have grown increasingly difficult given the time that has passed between when the children were released from federal custody and when volunteers started trying to find them.

  • That search has been made even more challenging since the outbreak of the coronavirus, during which travel throughout Central America has been restricted.

Flashback: The Trump administration first implemented a pilot program along stretches of the southern border in 2017. During that time more than 1,000 parents were separated from their children, NBC writes.

  • In April 2018, the administration formally instituted its "zero tolerance" policy, which enforced criminal prosecution of immigrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and children were separated from their families as their parents faced charges.
  • That policy was challenged in court, and two months after it was adopted, the president signed an executive order ending the policy.
  • But, but, but: Families were still being separated a year later, Houston Chronicle reports.

By the numbers: The administration said in October 2019 that an additional 1,556 children had been separated from their families in 2017. Roughly two-thirds of those parents were deported to Central America without them, per the ACLU.

  • As of this January, U.S. officials said 4,368 children had been separated from their parents or guardians under the policy, according to the Los Angeles Times.
  • Court-appointed attorneys and organizations have tracked down the parents of more than 550 children from the 2017 pilot program. Of those, about 25 will be able to return to the U.S. for reunification NBC writes.

What to watch: As part of the lawsuit over family separations in the Federal District Court in San Diego, the search will continue and the government must share details about any families separated at the border, the New York Times reports.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Nov 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

America mortgages its future on school closures

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The decision by many U.S. states and cities to keep kids out of school because of COVID-19 will have crippling economic and health effects that could last for decades.

Why it matters: Evidence shows that children, especially younger kids, present a low risk for COVID-19 transmission and that remote education is no replacement for in-person schooling. By keeping schools closed — even as more risky activities are allowed to continue — the U.S. is kneecapping the next generation.

1 hour ago - Podcasts

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes on the Senate runoffs

The future of U.S. politics, and all that flows from it, is in the hands of Georgia voters when they vote in two Senate runoffs on January 5.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the election dynamics with former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat who served between 1999 and 2003.

1 hour ago - Health

Cuomo orders emergency hospital protocols as COVID capacity dwindles

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that struggling state hospital systems must transfer patients to sites that are not nearing capacity, as rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations strain medical resources.

Why it matters: New York does not expect to get the same kind of help from thousands of out-of-state doctors and nurses that it got this spring, Cuomo acknowledged, as most of the country battles skyrocketing COVID hospitalizations and infections.