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A Ongoing Timeline of Trump’s Separation of Families

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The ongoing failure of the Trump Administration to meet the court-imposed deadline to reunite all 3,000 children they forcibly separated at the border is just most current development in the Administration’s zero-tolerance policy. Let’s remember: the Trump Administration has been discussing separating child migrants from their parents since almost the beginning. Extremists like Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions, and John Kelly thought the policy would deter families from coming to the border — an idea that turned out to be completely wrong. Earlier this year, the policy officially began in earnest. Today, hundreds of children remain separated from their families. This slow-moving trainwreck has brought widespread condemnation for the humanitarian crisis the Administration has created. Blocked by the courts and ordered to reunite families, the Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy has put both the cruelty and incompetence of this Administration on full display.

Here is an ongoing timeline of the Trump Administration’s separation of families:

  • March 3, 2017: The Trump Administration reportedly first begins considering separating children from families at the border; the idea is temporarily nixed for being too controversial.
  • October 2017: The Administration unofficially separates children and families at the border; more than 700 children, 100 of whom were under the age of 4, are separated.
  • December 21, 2017: The Administration convenes an interagency meeting to discuss family separation.
  • April 6, 2018: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces the “zero-tolerance” policy that results in family separation.
  • April 11, 2018: Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen denies that there is a family separation policy in testimony before Congress.
  • April 16, 2018: The inspector general begins investigation of the practice of separating families.  
  • May 11, 2018: Chief of Staff John Kelly defends family separation as a “tough deterrent.”
  • May 27, 2018: Trump falsely blames Democrats for his Administration’s self-created crisis.
  • May 31, 2018: A cumulative total of 1,995 children are taken from their parents.
  • June 4, 2018: Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is prevented from observing a detention facility holding separated children.  
  • June 9, 2018: 2,342 children are separated from their families..
  • June 14, 2018: AG Sessions attempts to use a Bible verse to defend family separation.  
  • June 17, 2018: DHS Security Nielsen continues to deny DHS has a policy for separating families at the border.
  • June 18, 2018: Photos of children being kept in cages are released to the public.
  • June 2018: The Administration begins housing separated children in “tent cities.”
  • June 20, 2018: After massive pressure and outcry over the Administration’s policy, Trump signs an executive order that he claimed ended family separation, but the order did not end the practice.
  • June 27, 2018: A judge orders an end to family separation and tells the Trump Administration to reunite families. The judge ruled children under the age of 5 must be reunited within 14 days and children age 5 and older within 30 days.
  • July 10, 2018: The Administration fails to meet the first court deadline, reuniting only 38 children under the age of 5 — less than half of the 102 children who are part of this group and short of their own goal of reuniting 58.
  • July 11, 2018: A judge rules that the Administration can force parents to stay with their children in indefinite detention or be separated in the hopes of an expedited process.
  • July 17, 2018: Horrific reports and stories about abuse, filthy conditions, and inadequate food and water for children and families in detention emerge.  
  • July 26, 2018: The Trump Administration fails to meet the second reunification deadline, only reuniting 43 percent of the children they separated.  
  • July 26, 2018: 463 parents are reported deported without their children.
  • July 29, 2018: Lawsuit alleges that families coming to the border were coerced by ICE officials to sign documents they didn’t understand, that facilitated deportation without their children.   
  • July 30, 2018: 711 children are still separated from their families
  • August 2, 2018: The Administration argues they are not responsible for reuniting the remaining children.
  • August 9, 2018: 572 children remain orphaned, separated from their parents.