The Trump administration just revealed in court that it may have stolen an additional 1,712 children from their families.
In a testament to just how vicious and disorganized Trump's family separation policy has been, the Trump administration admitted in a court hearing last week that it has identified an additional 1,712 immigrant children it "may have" separated from their parents.
In January 2019, a report from the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of the Inspector General revealed the family separation policy started much earlier than previously thought, which meant thousands more separated children. The administration had originally only copped to 2,737 separated kids — but later admitted it would have to analyze records of nearly 50,000 other children to figure out which of them might also have been separated.
Figuring out how to reunite these families is a grueling task, made all the worse because the administration's recordkeeping has ranged from shoddy to nonexistent. Additionally, the administration has shown no inclination to speedily reunite families. Trump officials initially told the court they would need two years to identify the separated children, but Judge Dana Sabraw gave them six months instead.
So far, the administration has only reviewed 13,000 of the 50,000 records it needs to review, partly because the review process involves multiple agencies. In the first pass, HHS flags a list of children it thinks may have been separated; that's where the list of a possible additional 1,712 children comes from.
Next, that list of 1,712 gets sent to Customs and Border Protection, within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Some on that list may turn out to be false positives, but that list is made of up children the agency considers most likely to have actually been separated.
The administration is supposed to finish its review of separated children by October 25, but it is difficult to see how that deadline will ever be met at this pace.
Cmdr. Jonathan White of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is overseeing the reunification efforts, and bragged that they were ahead of schedule. At the same time, though, HHS just told the court it is "expediting efforts to hire and train a team of data scientists" and to create "scalable teams" of record reviewers. That doesn't sound like an operation that is fully staffed at all, much less running ahead of schedule.
The ACLU notes that more than 3,000 separated families have already been confirmed. An additional 1,700 children on top of that would mean a tremendous additional burden to work to locate those families.
It's absurd that the ACLU, rather than the government, has taken on the lion's share of the work to reunite families. But let's face it: if we leave it to Trump's administration, with its unique combination of cruelty and incompetence, those families will never be brought back together.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.