How to Find a Missing Migrant

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)

The Missing Migrant Hotline is now discontinued.

However, our goal is to provide information on how to do your own search and other resources that are available to you.

For someone potentially lost in the desert now:

Is this a search-and-rescue situation—an emergency where the person is currently lost in the desert and their most recent communication was in the last three days?

If you are still in contact with this person via telephone, advise them that the only way to trace their location exactly is for them to make a call to 9-11.  Even then, it is not guaranteed that their location will be traced or a response will be mobilized.  They should be advised that their call will alert enforcement agencies as well as the emergency response system.

As well as, or instead of, calling 9-11 they should quickly give you as much information as they can on the phone about their current location and everything they remember about getting there. Advise them to conserve the battery life in their phone carefully and only move from their location if they feel confident it will better their situation: for example to a traveled road or water source that they can see.

To locate someone who may be in detention:

First Step:

Call the consulate of the country of origin of the missing person. Call the one closest to the location where they attempted to cross.  If that consulate doesn’t answer or is unhelpful, call others.

You will need the full name and birth date of the missing person. Often the consulate will only provide information to an immediate family member such as a parent, sibling, spouse, or child.

  • Complete Directory of border consulates of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua

The consulates of Mexico have a nationwide 24-hour hotline.  To call from within the US dial 855-463-6395.  To call from Mexico dial 001-520-623-7874.

Tucson, Arizona 520-798-2217, 520-398-6912
Phoenix, Arizona  602-200-3660
California 213-365-9251
McAllen, Texas 956-429-3413
Houston, Texas 713-953-9531


California 213-995-6406
McAllen, Texas 956-627-3172
Houston, Texas 713-785-5932
Dallas, Texas 972-986-5512, 972-986-5513

The Dallas consulate is charged with looking into cases in Arizona.

California  213-252-1170
Texas 713-789-2762


El Salvador
Tucson, Arizona  520-318-0410
California 213-234-9200
McAllen, Texas 956-800-1363
Houston, Texas 346-571-5198


Second Step:

If you have access to a computer and internet, check the following online detainee locators.

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)

Tips for using the online locators:

  • Put in just the first and last name (and for ICE, the country of origin) and leave the fields blank that are not required.
  • Two-part last names are usually connected with a hyphen (example: Morales-López) but try them with and without the hyphen, in reverse order, and with any common misspellings. This will help you find the person even if there was an error when the name was entered.

Next steps:

It has been our experience that even after consulting the consulate and the online locators, we have been able to find missing persons in detention centers across the border by calling the U.S. Marshals, ICE offices or the detention centers directly.

Call US Marshal’s to ask if your family member is in their custody.  Remember that you have a right to know where your family member is, and they you do not need to respond to any questions about your status or location.

For California: dial  (213-894-6820)

For Phoenix arizona: dial (602) 382-8768 (then press 0)

For Tucson arizona: dial (520) 879-6900 (press 0)

For Texas: dial (713) 718-4800

Call ICE offices to ask if your family member is in their custody.  Remember that you have a right to know where your family member is, and they you do not need to respond to any questions about your status or location.

National ICE number: (888) 351-4024

For California: (213) 830-7911

For Arizona: (602) 766-7030

For Florence Arizona: (520) 868-8383

For Eloy Arizona: (520) 464-3000

For Dallas Texas: (214) 424-7800

For Houston Texas: (281) 774-4816

For El Paso Texas: (915) 225-1901

For San Antonio Texas: (210) 283-4750

If your loved one is a mother traveling with children through Texas, call the Karnes County Residential Center at (830) 254-2000

Please click here for  a list of Detention Centers.

To search for a minor:

Call the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at 1-800-203-7001 seven days a week, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. E.S.T.  A family member must call this number and leave a message with the information about the minor they are looking for.  They will receive a call back from the minor if they are in custody.

The full process is the following:

  • All migrants under 18 will be eventually transferred from CBP holding to an undisclosed military base or to an Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facility.
  • Parents are to call the hotline (1-800-203-7001) and give the operator the Name, DOB, COB of their child, and a phone number to contact the parents.
  • Even if the caller is a parent, the operator will NOT tell them if their child is in CBP custody or has been transferred to a military base or ORR facility.
  • If the child is in ORR custody, the operator will then pass that information along to the Case Manager.
  • ORR case managers must confirm the caller’s relationship with the child before contacting the parents.

Instructions for locating someone who may have passed away while crossing:

Although it is very sad to say, in our experience we have learned that if your loved one has been missing for more than one month, it is likely time to begin the process of searching for them through the forensics system.

We are so sorry that your loved one is missing and you fear that they may have passed away.  Here is information for groups who help families search through the forensics system.

Click here to contact the Colibri Center for Human Rights.  This group does forensics interviews and helps families search the forensic systems all across the border, although focused in Arizona. When you call, leave a message and they will get back to you to begin the process. Please be aware that they have a heavy caseload at the moment and it can take approximately 4 weeks for them to be ready to call back.

Click here to contact the South Texas Human Rights Center for cases in South Texas.

Additionally, if you would like to contact offices of medical examiners directly, here are phone numbers to do so.

In California:  San Diego County Medical Examiner (858) 694-2895

For Arizona: Pima County Medical Examiner (520) 724-8600

For El Paso: El Paso County Medical Examiner (915) 532-1447

For Laredo Texas and surrounding areas including Brooks County and Falfurrias Texas: Webb County Medical Examiner at (956) 722-7054

For the southern tip of Texas only, Mcallen: (956) 292-7014

For the southern tip of Texas only, Brownsville: (956) 389-1920

These two numbers are usually for drownings and river deaths, for those who have already begun to walk and advanced inward into Texas, the more appropriate number would be Webb County, which is again (956) 722-7054

If your family member sadly does not appear in the system after a few weeks of searching, we recommend beginning to ask about the process of DNA sampling. Colibri and the South Texas Human Rights Center may be able to help you in this process. Additionally, you may contact the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF, for it’s name in Spanish). They may be especially helpful to work with if close family members of the person who passed away are living outside of the US. This organization takes DNA samples from people all over the world and is not connected to any government body. For the New York office call 718-237-2028