U.S. Has Taken More Than 3,700 Children From Their Parents


The Trump administration’s program of systematically separating migrant children from their parents is steadily expanding, government officials confirmed Tuesday. Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s “zero tolerance” doctrine, U.S. authorities have been ordered to criminally prosecute all individuals arrested for illegally crossing the border without exception, including asylum-seekers and parents arriving with small children.

The result has been historic, and catastrophic, with the U.S. government intentionally creating thousands of so-called unaccompanied minors whose immigration cases have now become separate from their parents, plunging them, on their own, into an already overwhelmed system of federal bureaucracies.

In a phone call with reporters, senior officials at the various agencies responsible for the crackdown said thousands of families have been impacted by the measures so far. They added that there is no uniform, border-wide guidance in place establishing rules for how immigration agents on the ground should handle cases involving sensitive populations, such as babies and small children. Instead, officials said, it is up to Border Patrol chiefs at individual stations to exercise “discretion” in determining how to handle such cases. Officials described the ongoing effort as a program aimed at “deterrence.”

Brian Hastings, acting chief of law enforcement operations for the Border Patrol, told reporters that from May 5, 2018, through June 9, 2018, a total of 2,235 families comprising 4,548 people were apprehended along the southern border. “The total number of children that were made UACs through this prosecution initiative,” he explained, was 2,342, and the total number of adults referred for prosecution during that time period was 2,206.

“All humanitarian considerations and policies remain in place. There’s discretion given to the field chiefs over each of the nine southwest border sectors for the appropriate referrals for sensitive cases, those include adults who are traveling with traveling with tender-age children,” Hastings said. “The chiefs in the field are allowed to make that discretionary call.” When asked if that meant there was no blanket, border-wide guidance on the separation of infants from their parents, Hastings replied, “That’s correct.” He added that “the chiefs in the field” have “generally” considered children under the age of 5 as being “tender aged.” Hastings could not provide statistics on the number of children under 5 who his agency has separated from their parents.Steve Wagner, acting assistant secretary at Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is in turn responsible for the children the government is taking into custody, said his agency hopes the program will deter parents from entering the country without authorization. “We expect that the new policy will result in a deterrence effect,” he said. “We certainly hope that parents stop bringing their kids on this dangerous journey and entering the country illegally, so we are prepared to continue to expand capacity as needed. We hope that will not be necessary in the future.”

Wagner had no numbers to provide regarding families who have been reunited, post-prosecution, under the administration’s new program.

Shortly after the call, McClatchy, citing a review of federal data, reported that the “Trump administration has likely lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children, thousands more than lawmakers were alerted to last month.” Last week, the government said it separated 1,995 children from their parents from April through May. Today, the Border Patrol cited a somewhat larger number — 2,342 — for May through June. Earlier this month, The Intercept reported a minimum of 1,358 children were separated from their parents from October 2017 through mid-May. While precise numbers remain fuzzy, due to overlapping timelines reported by different media outlets, it is safe to say the number of migrant kids separated from their parents by the Trump administration is well over 3,700 and climbing.

Leave a comment