The Trump administration separated 1,556 more immigrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border than has previously been disclosed to the public, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has said.
The majority of the children are aged 12 and under, including more than 200 considered “tender age” because they are under five years old.
The ACLU said the Justice Department disclosed the final tally – which is in addition to the more than 2,700 children known to have been separated last year – hours before a federal court deadline to identify all children separated since mid-2017, the year Donald Trump took office.
US district judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego gave the Trump administration six months in April to disclose the names to the ACLU, which is trying to track down all the families and learn whether they have been reunited.
The ACLU said the children were taken from their parents and released from federal shelters sometime between 1 July 2017, and June 2018, when Ms Sabraw, an appointee of George W Bush, ordered the administration to reunite the more than 2,700 children who were still in custody with their parents.
But Ms Sabraw and ACLU lawyers did not know at that time that hundreds of other children had been taken from their parents and released from US Health and Human Services (HHS) shelters months earlier, including when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretly piloted the separations in the border patrol’s El Paso, Texas, sector.
An HHS office of inspector general report in January disclosed that the administration may have separated more families than it revealed to the public.
ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said the Justice Department has been sending the names of separated families to them in batches and provided the last information on Thursday. He said he is worried that parents have been deported without their children.