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New Documents Reveal Trump Administration Failed to Keep Track of Separated Children Despite Deliberately Crafting Plan That Tore Families Apart

Washington, D.C. Two new documents reveal that the Trump administration both deliberately crafted a plan to separate families seeking safety at the U.S. border and then failed to keep track of how many children were taken from their parents.

A brief released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) shows that the Trump administration separated thousands more children than previously acknowledged, that separations date back to well before the nationwide zero-tolerance policy, and that the government still lacks the systems needed to accurately identify, track, and reunite separated children with separated family members. Further, the report confirms what other reports have already found: that children are being separated even well after the purported “end” to family separation.

In addition, a draft document of measures the Trump administration considered for purposes of deterrence, including the eventual family separation policy, was leaked by a government whistleblower to Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore) and made public late last night. The document reveals what the Women’s Refugee Commission and many organizations had been asserting for months – that the Trump administration deliberately created a family separation policy designed to deter families from seeking protection at the border. The document also shows that key administration officials including Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen lied about it.

In response to these latest revelations about the Trump administration’s immigration policies, Katharina Obser, senior policy advisor of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, issued the following statement:

“What we have learned in the last 24 hours is horrifying, but not surprising. We have known from the onset that the separation of families – whether during the pilot in El Paso in 2017 or the nationwide zero-tolerance policy – was a coordinated campaign of chaos designed as a deterrent, utilizing both deception and incompetence. The reason the administration cannot clarify the number of children separated, nor account for them all to this day, is because they never intended to do so even after planning and implementing the practice for months. The Women’s Refugee Commission, and scores of our partner organizations, raised our concerns about inadequate tracking time and again with this administration. Our December 2017 complaint to DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and OIG made crystal clear that a crisis was brewing.

“It was also clear that DHS Secretary Nielsen lied when she denied under oath to Congress that there was no official policy of separating families. The document made public last night proves that this administration orchestrated its campaign of chaos a campaign that has destroyed families with the cruel intention of stopping families and children from seeking safety at the border. We will not let these outrageous actions by President Trump and his administration go unchecked.  We will continue to work with partner organizations as well as a Congress that finally is eager to hold this administration accountable.”

Within hours of the HHS/OIG report release, U.S. Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) among other members of the House of Representatives – announced plans for Congressional oversight, with Roybal-Allard chairwoman of the DHS Appropriations Subcommittee and DeLauro chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for HHS funding.