Last year, we reported on the administration’s horrifying policy to separate migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border—which was first announced in May of 2018. The policy led to massive public outcry. At the end of June, federal courts ordered that the policy be ended—and families to be reunified.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General released a chilling report—following months of investigation into these family separations. The findings of the report indicate that the issue is far more wide-spread than we initially thought.
Separating families under the radar
Previously, it was believed that family separation occurred over a two-month period last summer. The report found, however, that migrant children were being taken from their parents many months before the policy was publicly announced.
On June 27, 2018 the Homeland Security Secretary tweeted, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” We now know that 10 months before she made this statement, family separation at the border was already underway.
More discouraging still, the report finds that family separations continued to occur—even following the court order to end the practice. Between July and November of last year, at least 118 more children were separated from their parents.
Lack of record keeping
Another heart-wrenching discovery the report made was the egregious lack of record keeping when child separations occurred. When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transferred children into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), their records did not even indicate whether the child had been separated from their parents. If an HHS employee was informed of a child’s separation, it was up to them to remember to record this information—which was done informally and inconsistently.
Investigation into the tragedy confirms that from the start, there was “never any centralized way to identify, track or reunite these children.” Consequently, we may never know how many thousands of children were separated from their families. The situation is devastating and deplorable.