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In July 2018, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS, the agency charged with the care and custody of separated children, certified to a federal court that there were 2,654 children that ORR believed were separated by DHS. Yesterday, the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS IG) reported that there were “thousands” more children separated by DHS that have not previously been disclosed. This confirms what was suspected for months that the Trump administration was obfuscating the breadth of their cruel and inhumane family separation policy.
On top of this undisclosed number of separated children, the HHS IG made clear yesterday that separations continue in certain situations, under dubious standards and with little information for HHS who needs this information to appropriately care for children in their custody.
In multiple reports to the federal court that enjoined the Trump family separation policy, lawyers for parents raised serious concerns regarding a severe lack of standards and information regarding separated families where DHS alleged a “red flag” but provided very little or no information on such allegations. In other words, children were taken from parents without clear standards and with very little information for parents, let alone a fair process by which parents could challenge such allegations. Yesterday, the HHS IG concluded that those problems linger and, in fact, children continue to be taken from their parents by DHS under suspect standards and without clear and established information:
From July 1 through November 7, 2018, ORR received at least 118 children identified by DHS as separated when referring the child to ORR care. However, DHS provided ORR with limited information about the reasons for these separations, which may impede ORR’s ability to determine appropriate placements.
The newly separated children ranged in age from under 1 year old to 17 years old. Of the 118 children, 82 were under the age of 13 when transferred to ORR care, including 27 who were under the age of 5.
Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said: “For months, there have been reports of separated children not reported by the Trump administration. Those reports are now confirmed. Worse yet, the HHS IG has confirmed that separations continue in certain circumstances under dubious standards and with little information. On top of that, there is no fair process for parents to challenge such claims. Under this administration, DHS continues to take children from parents with no clear standards, information, or process that even attempts to adhere to basic standards of child welfare. It is time for Congress to hold this administration accountable not only for the cruelty and inhumanity of past family separations, but also those that continue.”
David Leopold, Counsel to DHS Watch, Chair of Immigration at Ulmer & Berne and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said: “Just six months ago Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted ‘We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.’ She was, of course, lying. Now we know that she, and others in the Trump administration, also lied about how the family separations occurred, the number of kids separated from their parents, and whether the cruel practice had stopped as ordered by a federal judge last June. The HHS IG report is shocking. Congress must hold the Trump administration accountable for its immoral policy of family separation and ensure that it cease and desist from its ongoing assault on families and children.”