The attorneys appointed by a federal judge to identify the families of migrants who were separated at the U.S. southern border say that they have been unable to find the parents of 545 children.

The American Civil Liberties Union attorneys are asserting that two-thirds of the parents of those children have already been deported to Central America.

The “zero-tolerance” policy enacted by President Donald Trump‘s administration separated thousands of children from their families beginning in 2017 until the program was ended by executive order in 2018.

“What has happened is horrific,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, told NPR. “Some of these children were just babies when they were separated. Some of these children may now have been separated for more than half of their lives. Almost their whole life, they have not been with their parents.”

Non-governmental immigrant support groups appointed by a federal judge have conducted “time-consuming and arduous on-the-ground searches for parents in their respective countries of origin.”

The searches had been hampered due to the global COVID-19 pandemic but have now resumed.

“Even before COVID, it was hard enough finding these families, but we will not stop until we’ve found every one,” Gelernt said.

The children have been released from government custody and are currently residing in the U.S. under the supervision of sponsor families. Actress Rosanna Arquette opined on Twitter: “Trump separated children from their parents knowing they would never see their parents again. This is the evil barbaric cruelty of this administration.”

Other social media users tied irony to tie the child crisis to an announcement from the official Twitter account of First Lady Melania Trump, where she wrote she is “Proud to support the Putting America’s First Peoples First, Forgotten No More plan prioritizing support for Native Americans. The President & I have worked to bring awareness to long-overlooked issues like Missing & Murdered Native Americans, child safety, & economic opportunity.”

Other Twitter users encouraged NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker, whose father is Native American and mother is Black, to ask about the child separations during the final presidential debate Thursday night.

Story and Photo Credit: Biba Adams/thegrio

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