Child Separation Policy: Allegations of Mistreatment Substantiated

Nevertheless, pursuant to the subpoenas, the Committee has now obtained new information about at least 2,648 children who were separated from their parents by the Trump Administration.  Many of these children were brought by their parents to the United States to seek refuge from violence in Central America and elsewhere and to seek asylum under U.S. law.

This list largely covers children who were separated after the Administration initiated its “zero tolerance policy” in April 2018 and were still in custody as of June 26, 2018.This information was provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within HHS, Customs and Border Protection (CBP)and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within DHS, and other federal agencies.

This data does not include information about thousands of additional children who may have been separated prior to April 2018, information about children who were reunited with their parents prior to June 2018, or information about more than 700 additional children who have been separated by the Administration since June 2018

Based on the new information obtained by the Committee, this staff report includes the following preliminary findings, which may be updated as more information is obtained:

The Trump Administration’s Child Separations Were More Harmful, Traumatic, and Chaotic than Previously Known

·  At least 18 infants and toddlers under two years old were taken away from their parents at the border and kept apart for 20 days to half a year.

·  At least 241separated children were kept in Border Patrol facilities longer than the 72 hours permitted by law.

·  Many separated children were kept in government custody far longer than previously known—at least 679 were held for 46 to 75 days, more than 50 were held for six months to a year, and more than 25 were held for more than a year.

·  Even after being reunited with their parents, hundreds of separated children continued to be detained for months in family detention facilities—far longer than the 20-day limit under the Flores case.

·  More than 400 children were moved to multiple CBP facilities, more than 80 children were moved to multiple ORR facilities, and at least five children were moved to multiple ICE facilities—including to one, Port Isabel, after the Administration claimed that “no children will be housed at the facility … even for short periods.”

·  At least ten separated children were sent to the “tent city” in Tornillo, Texas, the notorious emergency influx facility near El Paso, before the CEO of the facility’s parent company refused to continue operations as a result of the administration’s pressure to expand capacity despite delays in releasing children

The Trump Administration Has Not Been Candid with the American People about Its Purpose in Separating Children
The records obtained by the Committee indicate that the Trump administration separated children unnecessarily—even under its own rationale—causing lengthy delays to reunifications and separations that continue to this day.  The administration claimed that separating children was necessary to criminally prosecute parents.  But the documents describe parents who were never sent to federal criminal custody, as well as others who were briefly taken into custody and then returned within a day or two likely because prosecutors declined to prosecute their cases or because they were sentenced to time served for the misdemeanor of illegal entry.  In some cases, parents were readmitted to the same facilities they left just hours before, but their children had already been removed. These parents were then sent to separate detention facilities and in some cases deported without their children.

The Nightmare of Child Separations Continues
Hundreds of additional children have been separated from their parents since the end of the Administration’s zero tolerance policy in June 2018.  These continued unnecessary separations have contributed to the current crisis of children suffering in overcrowded, poorly-run government detention facilities at the border. In addition, at least 30children separated from their parents under the zero tolerance policy remain separated, despite a federal court order more than a year ago to reunite these children with their families or an appropriate sponsor.

The information obtained by the Committee indicates that the Trump administration’s decision to separate thousands of babies, toddlers, and children from their parents and put them in government custody for months or years is causing immense suffering.  This staff report provides numerous case studies that illustrate their trauma in stark terms. These child separations were not required by law and were not in the best interest of the children.  Instead, the policy of separating children from their parents appears to be a deliberate, unnecessary, and cruel choice by President Trump and his administration.