Being separated from your child is probably one of your worst nightmares. If you’ve ever had a sinking feeling in your stomach when you turn around in a store or at a park and don’t immediately see your child, you know the kind of panic we’re talking about.

Thousands of parents who tried to immigrate to the United States across the United States’ border with Mexico were separated from their children under the “no tolerance” migration policy. This policy ended in 2018, and within just a few weeks, thousands of parents and children were finally reunited.

The problem is that the federal judge’s order to reunite the separated families did not apply to about 1000 families that were separated at the border in 2017 during a pilot program. This group was only allowed to reunite in 2019, but now, in 2020, many of these families have still not been reunited.

The U.S. Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a court document on Tuesday which stated that they have not been able to find 545 of the parents, and they have not been able to locate about 360 of the children. 

About two-thirds of the parents are thought to have already returned to their home countries. Meanwhile, the children, who were placed in a shelter system at first have since been placed with sponsors across the country. Most likely, the children will try to stay in the United States.

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

Court appointed groups have been searching for the the parents and children, but the coronavirus pandemic stopped those efforts, and they have only recently resumed the on-the-ground search for the children’t parents in their home countries.