The Trump Administration’s Family Separation Program Was Far Larger, More Cruel than Previously Believed

On January 17th, 2019, The New York Times reported that the Trump Administration’s immoral family separation policy affected thousands more children than was previously known. This information was released in a new government OIG report — required to be drafted following a federal court order.

According to the report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Trump Administration’s family separation policy began earlier than was previously reported and potentially “thousands” of migrant children who were separated prior to June of 2018 were never included in the official figures.

OIG Report: Thousands of Unreported Separated Children

According to the OIG report, family separation — as a broader scale Trump Administration policy —dates back to as early as the Summer of 2017. While the so-called “zero tolerance” policy was not announced until April of 2018, immigration officers were already separating families at a far higher rate.

During its review of all available government data and records, the OIG assessed that it observed a sharp increase in the number of children who had been separated from a parent or other guardian by American immigration enforcement officers. The OIG report determined that the El Paso sector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began removing children from their parents throughout the second half of 2017. It appears that they were doing so under a ‘pilot program’. Thousands of previously unknown children could have been affected by this policy. We cannot put a specific figure on how many children were separated because the Trump Administration does not know how many children it actually separated.

The True Scope of the Family Separation Policy is Still Unknown; May Never Be Known

Perhaps the single most striking and upsetting detail in the Inspector General’s report on family separation is the following: “the total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is unknown”. Beyond being cruel, the Trump Administration’s family separation policy was handled in an incompetent manner. This point was already made by a government watchdog from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who noted that the Trump Administration’s actions caused “total chaos” at the border.

Still, it is extremely alarming that after an eight-month investigation, government officials still cannot figure out exactly how many migrant children were ripped apart from their parents. Indeed, in the OIG report itself, the government admits that it may never be able to find out how many children were separated. After an exhaustive investigation, HHS is still struggling to determine what happened to many migrant children.  

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