This story is over 5 years old.


More than 400 parents were deported without their kids. This is what it takes to find them.

According to the latest data, at least 150 children whose parents have been deported are still stuck in shelters in the U.S.

Four months after the Trump administration ended the practice of separating families at the US-Mexico border, there are still scores of parents and kids to be reunified. And the ACLU is tasked with one of the biggest reunification challenges: finding the 400-plus parents who were deported without their children.

According to the latest data, 254 children are still in government custody, with parents outside of the U.S. More than half of these children are waiting to be reunited, or to have their wishes communicated to the government. The ACLU, tasked by a federal judge after bringing suit against the administration, has recently been overseeing these efforts.


“When we filed this lawsuit, did I think I would be here four or five months later in Guatemala having to find these families?” Lee Gelernt, the head attorney arguing the ACLU’s case, told VICE News. “No.”

But finding deported parents, who often live in rural towns and are not trusting of cold calls, is hard to do from the U.S. And without support from the U.S. or Guatemalan governments, this work falls to local lawyers like Aroldo Palacios.

Palacios works part-time with Justice in Motion, an American NGO that, along with Kids in Need of Defense and Women's Refugee Commission, has partnered with the ACLU. He has found 19 deported parents thus far. One morning earlier this month, he boarded a public bus and went to a small village close to the Mexican border to reach another of these parents, Erik, who was deported without his 8-year-old son in June.

VICE News goes to Guatemala to see what it takes to clean up the chaos created by zero tolerance.

This segment originally aired September 17, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.