Thousands Of Immigrant Children Were Separated From Their Parents And The Government Doesn’t Know How Many
The Trump administration separated far more immigrant children from their parents after crossing the border in the last two years than previously realized, with a new report revealing that the government still has no idea how many families it actually separated.
A report from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services released Thursday found that HHS estimates “thousands” of children may have been separated from their parents since summer 2017, and that the exact number was still “unknown.” (The full report is at the end of this article.)
“OIG found that more children over a longer period of time were separated than is commonly discussed,” Ann Maxwell, an assistant inspector general for evaluation and inspections said Thursday.
HHS is responsible for caring for unaccompanied immigrant children, but did not have specific policies or infrastructure in place to track separated children or procedures to help reunify them.
“In sum, the total number of children separated and transferred to HHS for care is unknown,” continued Maxwell. “Why is it unknown? Because HHS faced significant challenges identifying which children in its care had been separated by [the Department of Homeland Security].”
Katie Waldman, DHS spokesperson, in a statement said the report vindicates what the agency has long been saying.
“For more than a decade it was and continues to be standard for apprehended minors to be separated when the adult is not the parent or legal guardian, the child’s safety is at risk, or serious criminal activity by the adult,” Waldman said.
Scott Shuchart, a former senior adviser to the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the US Department of Homeland Security from 2010 to 2018, said that DHS’ statement, which he labeled as disingenuous, showed “total contempt” for the public’s intelligence.
“The report is not about – and no one disputes – the circumstances under which federal law requires that accompanied children be deemed unaccompanied and transferred from DHS to HHS custody. It is about DHS’s grotesque negligence in keeping records, and providing records to HHS, to enable parents and children to be kept in touch or reunited as appropriate under the law,” he said. “As a federal judge has held, DHS’s conduct would “shock the conscience” of any reasonable person, and the HHS OIG report confirms the scale of DHS’s violation of people’s basic rights and, it appears, federal record-keeping law as well.”
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