A bombshell report from the Health and Human Services Inspector General (IG) found that 118 children were separated from their families between July and November of 2018, in violation of a court order.
Despite the fact that 118 children were unlawfully separated from families following a court order to end the policy, Health and Human Services spokesperson Kenneth Wolfe insisted incorrectly in September that “family separations resulting from the zero tolerance policy ended on June 20, 2018.”
The report also found that the number of migrant children separated from their families is thousands more than was previously known. The actual number is unknown, however, because federal tracking of these children has been woefully inadequate.
After being ordered by courts to end the policy of family separation at the border, the Trump administration last fall tripled the size of the tent city at Fort Bliss, which makes sense in light of this report. The tent city is finally closing down, after initially being slated to do so last July.
While the Trump administration contended that family separation was not a new policy and existed under President Obama, the IG report found that 0.3 percent of children were separated from families in 2016 usually when it was suspected the child was smuggled. By contrast, in 2017 — Trump’s first year in office — that number shot up to 3.6 percent.
Deaths of migrants in U.S. custody have drawn attention to the inadequate standard of care these children face. The IG report delved into the various shelters that serve as station stops for children on their journey through the Office of Refugee Resettlement system, but an unpublished Homeland Security report detailed how the policy of family separation created “chaos” in the Border Patrol leaving children in cells for prolonged periods of time and causing the government to lose track of children’s identities.
When asked if the system is now acceptable, assistant Inspector General for HHS Ann Maxwell told the Washington Post “the jury is still out on that.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.