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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

Updated Jan 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden to attempt "emergency economic relief" by executive order

President Biden. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Biden will continue his executive action blitz on Friday, issuing two more orders in an attempt to provide immediate relief to struggling families without waiting for Congress.

Why it matters: In his second full day in office, Biden is again resorting to executive actions as he tries to increase payments for nutritional assistance and protect workers' rights during the pandemic.

Cuomo asks New York AG and chief judge to choose "independent" investigator into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Feb. 24. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A special counselor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement on Sunday asking the state's attorney general and chief judge to jointly pick an "independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation" to investigate claims of sexual harassment against the governor.

The state of play: The statement is an about-face from Cuomo, who had previously selected a former judge close to a top aide to lead the investigation, the New York Times reported, a move that was widely criticized.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."