Sometimes, the people she's seeking are nowhere to be found.
"There are places where you practically have to climb mountains to get there. And when you arrive, they say, 'He doesn't live here anymore,'" says Melara, an attorney working with the nonprofit Justice In Motion.
For years, Melara has been searching for parents who were separated from their children by US authorities as part of the Trump administration's widely condemned effort to deter migrant families from coming to the United States.
That so-called "zero tolerance" policy
ended in 2018 and had largely faded from the headlines after sparking nationwide protests
that year. But a revelation in court documents this week
is shining fresh public attention on the policy and its aftermath. Lawyers say they haven't been able to reach the parents of 545 children from separated families -- and that hundreds of those parents were likely deported without their children.
"This is something that is still affecting many families," Melara says. "Until each one of the parents has been found, for me, this is not over."
Even when she reaches a remote village, only to learn that a parent isn't there, Melara says she doesn't think of the case as a lost cause.
"We think of it," she says, "as 'now we've taken the first step to find them.'"
What parents say when she finds them
Melara often has little information to go on when she begins a search. Generally, she'll start with the name of a child, the name of a parent, and the parent's last known location -- information that advocates say often turns out to be inaccurate or out of date.
When Melara reaches a town, she'll talk with community leaders, hoping they can point her in the right direction.