THOUSANDS More Kids Were Taken From Parents Than U.S. Admitted. So, Um, Good Job?
With the government shut down for the sake of Donald Trump's wet dream WALL, it only makes sense we'd get another reminder of just HOW GOOD Team Trump is at cruelty toward undocumented migrants. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday released a report by its Inspector General, finding that oops, actually the number of children taken from their parents at the border is probably thousands more than the government originally counted. And no, nobody has a very clear idea of whether they were actually reunited, because the only court case demanding family reunification didn't include families separated prior to the official "Zero Tolerance" policy. Look, they BROKE THE LAW, so Jesus said America could do whatever it wants to them.
The family separation policy was ended when Donald Trump generously recognized it was backfiring politically and issued an executive order in late June 2018. Shortly after, a federal judge ruled the administration had to reunite all the kids and parents separated since "Zero Tolerance" went into effect, and HHS's IG report mostly looks at the efforts made to reunite all the families subject to the ACLU's lawsuit (Mrs. L. v. ICE) against family separation.
But as we've noted, before Jeff Sessions announced "Zero Tolerance" in late April of 2018, the Trump administration had already been experimenting for months with trying to scare asylum seekers away by taking their children. Stealing kids was near and dear to the pus-laden gangrenous heart of John Kelly, both when he ran Homeland Security and after he became the putative "adult" in Trump's cabinet. Kelly was SO PROUD of the brilliant "deterrent" he'd pushed through -- at least until it became embarrassing, and hence the Democrats' fault.
Of course, as the new IG report acknowledges, those early experiments with separating families were largely opaque, and kept terrible (let's just say nonexistent) records of the kids and parents separated at the border. And how many separations happened before the judge demanded reunification? Oh, merely a hell of a lot:
"More children over a longer period of time" were separated at the border than commonly known, an investigator with the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general told reporters Thursday morning. "How many more children were separated is unknown, by us and HHS."
As the report itself admits, the IG couldn't really get more specific than simply "thousands" of kids taken away in the test runs that preceded "zero tolerance."
The total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is unknown. Pursuant to a June 2018 Federal District Court order, HHS has thus far identified 2,737 children in its care at that time who were separated from their parents. However, thousands of children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before the accounting required by the Court, and HHS has faced challenges in identifying separated children.
It's worth keeping the bureaucratic division of labor clear here: Homeland Security (Customs and Border Protection specifically) took the kids from their parents. ICE (still part of DHS) then took custody of the parents for prosecution as (misdemeanor) CRIMINALS, and transported the kids to HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), to be housed and placed with a sponsor, usually a parent, guardian, or other family member.
The report says the rate of reunification of families from the pre-"zero tolerance" period is simply unknown, because hey, nobody was really keeping records. How's this for specific?
ASPR is HHS's "Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response," and as we've said before, we half suspect the government hoped to hide all those kids behind a wall of acronyms.
In short, outside the family separations covered in the class action lawsuit, nobody knows. HHS thinks most of those kids were probably placed with sponsors or eventually reunified with their parents, but there's really no telling because they weren't covered by the lawsuit, oh well.
For that matter, as became clear while the family separation story unfolded in the press, even after "zero tolerance" went into effect, record keeping was haphazard at best. The report says once the court required HHS to account for all the separated children from April 2018 going forward, the agency struggled to make sense of DHS records of family separations which were scattered across 60 different databases. Again, not a complete surprise, but it verifies that astonishing New York Times report that "In hundreds of cases, [CBP] agents deleted the initial records" listing kids and parents with a "family identification number" that could have been used to track and reunite them.
And even since the judge's decision, more separated kids keep being identified. Hey, remember when HHS Secretary Alex Azar said back in June, "I could at the stroke of keystrokes … within seconds could find any child within our care for any parent," and so what was everyone so upset about? That turned out to be as big a lie as Kirstjen Nielsen's insistence there was never a family separation policy.
Oh yes, and despite HHS's efforts to at least identify all the families covered by the Mrs. L. v. ICE decision, the agency remains uncertain it's found all the kids, but dude, it is TOTALLY Homeland Security's fault, man.
It is not yet clear whether recent changes to ORR's systems and processes are sufficient to ensure consistent and accurate data about separated children, and the lack of detail in information received from DHS continues to pose challenges.
This is why we need WALL: If we just pretend WALL has ended unauthorized border crossings, then the rest of the machinery of cruelty can't fuck things up further.
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