By Maya Rhodan
June 26, 2018

A group that represents migrant families separated at the border says at least one of their clients has been deported without their child.

The deported father came to the United States on May 27 and was sent back to Guatemala on June 6, according to representatives of the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), which is working with 381 families separated under President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. The group cannot confirm the details of the father’s interactions with the federal government, or if he was seeking asylum in the U.S.

Natalia Cornelio, TCRP’s criminal justice reform director and who is working with separated families, said Tuesday that because the father was deported quickly, it is possible that he did not present an asylum claim. The father’s son is in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Cornelio says.

While the TCRP suspects more of their adult clients may have also been deported without their children, it has so far only been able to confirm one case. The group also says it can confirm four cases of families being reunited.

Advocates say keeping families in contact throughout separations can prove difficult. The challenge is made greater once a family member has been deported.

President Trump curtailed his administration’s policy of separating parents from their children at the border in a June 20 Executive Order. Customs and Border Protection officials will temporarily stop referring parents who cross the border with their children for prosecution, NPR reported Tuesday, the key provision of the zero tolerance policy. It is those prosecutions that led to the family separations, as children cannot be incarcerated with their parents.

The administration said June 23 that 522 children who were separated under the policy have now been reunited with their parents. The Department of Health and Human Services, whose ORR cares for unaccompanied minors, has said it is working to reunite the more than 2,000 minors currently in its care with their parents.

But on a conference call Tuesday, TCRP representatives had a request for federal officials as they continue the process: stop deportations when parents and children are separated.

Reports of such deportations have begun to trickle out in recent days. The Washington Post reported a story of a Salvadoran man who was deported without his 6-year-old daughter. The New York Times also reported on a Guatemalan woman who was deported without her 8-year-old son in early June.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a fact sheet issued June 23 that it has taken several steps to reunify families, including the implementation of “an identification mechanism” to track families and keep them in contact, as well as improved coordination with HHS to reunite a child with their parent before they are removed from the U.S.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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