“The total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is unknown,” the report said.
DESPARDES News Monitor — The Trump administration may have separated thousands of migrant children from their parents at the border for up to a year before family separation was a publicly known practice, according to a stunning government review of the health department’s role in family separation.
A report by the health department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published on Thursday said officials at the health department estimated “thousands of separated children” were put in health department care before a court order in June 2018 ordered the reunification of 2,600 other children.
At least 1,712 migrant children may have separated from their parents in addition to those separated under the “zero tolerance” policy, according to court transcripts of a Friday hearing.
U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to identify children separated before the zero tolerance policy went into effect in May 2018, resulting in the separation of over 2,800 children.
Sabraw previously ordered those migrant families to be reunited, but the additional children were identified more recently when the Inspector General for Health and Human Services estimated “thousands more” may have been separated before the policy was officially underway.
Other potentially separated migrant children could still be identified. The government has reviewed the files of 4,108 children out of 50,000 so far.
Sabraw gave the Trump administration six months to complete the task of combing through nearly 50,000 records to locate additional separated children.
The list of 1,712 children was sent to Customs and Border Protection for the “next phase of review,” said Commander Jonathan White, the Trump administration official who spearheaded the reunification of children separated during zero tolerance, as well as the current effort.
Lee Gelernt, the lead ACLU lawyer in the separations case, said in a statement that “the government has indicated that it has already found preliminary indications of 1700 more separated families, on top of the more than 3000 separated families already reported.
“If the final number turns out to anywhere near 1700, that’s a lot of additional hardship and a lot of work for us to do locating these families.”
“This policy was a cruel disaster from the start,” Gelernt said. “This report reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents.”