As if we need to state the obvious, a new report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General is telling us what we already knew: the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy” in detaining immigrant families and separating children from their parents was indeed a classic shitshow. (FYI, we know DHS likes to use words like “aliens.” Ugh.)
As the opening part of the report states:
DHS was not fully prepared to implement the Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy or to deal with some of its after-effects. Faced with resource limitations and other challenges, DHS regulated the number of asylum-seekers entering the country through ports of entry at the same time that it encouraged asylum-seekers to come to the ports. During Zero Tolerance, CBP also held alien children separated from their parents for extended periods in facilities intended solely for short-term detention.
DHS also struggled to identify, track, and reunify families separated under Zero Tolerance due to limitations with its information technology systems, including a lack of integration between systems.
Finally, DHS provided inconsistent information to aliens who arrived with children during Zero Tolerance, which resulted in some parents not understanding that they would be separated from their children, and being unable to communicate with their children after separation.
Then there is this from the report:
Similarly, OIG identified 24 children who appeared in the DHS data set, but not on the matching table. When OIG requested additional information from the Department about these 24 children, the information provided revealed inaccuracies in the data DHS had previously provided to OIG. For example, the initial data set indicated that ICE had not yet removed a particular adult. The new information revealed that ICE had in fact removed the adult several weeks before it provided the initial data set to OIG. Additionally, while the initial data set identified two particular minors as having been separated from an adult, the new information indicated the minors entered the country unaccompanied. Nevertheless, CBP’s and ICE’s systems both continue to identify the minors as having been separated from an adult.
Despite these issues with the reliability of some of DHS’ data, OIG was able to determine from other data maintained by ICE that 23 of the 24 children were properly left off the matching table. For example, the list derived from the DHS data contained separated families where the child had since been placed with a sponsor out of Office of Refugee Resettlement custody, as well as children who were separated from adults who were not parents or legal guardians. None of these cases met the criteria for inclusion on the matching table.
Regarding the one remaining child identified by OIG, OIG learned that DHS reunited the child with his parent in September. The circumstances surrounding the September reunification of this child with his parent raise questions about the accuracy of the Department’s previous reporting on family separations and reunifications. For instance, on July 26, 2018, DHS declared that it had reunified all eligible parents in ICE custody with their children; yet this eligible parent was in ICE custody on that date, but was not reunified with his child until September.
By the way, here is the three-page (three-page) response from DHS about the IG report:
You can read the full report below: