Trump's family separation policy was far more unorganized and chaotic than the administration led the public to believe.
Emails released by NBC News Thursday evening show the Trump administration had no system in place to reunite the immigrant children they kidnapped with their parents. The emails also show that Trump administration officials lied about having a database to keep track of all the children ripped away from their parents.
"We have a list of parent alien numbers but no way to link them to children," an official with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a June 23, 2018, email to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official. Despite the fact that thousands of children had been taken from their parents, the HHS official said, "no, we do not have any linkages from parents to [children], save for a handful."
On the same day of this email exchange, the Department of Homeland Security lied in a document released to the public, saying that administration "knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families." The same statement falsely declared that Trump officials "have a process established to ensure that family members know the location of their children" with "a central database which HHS and DHS can access and update."
In reality, the Trump administration had no such database. While the Trump administration lied to the public, officials were emailing each other admitting that they were unprepared to reunite families.
"[T]he type and volume of what you are requesting is not something that we are going to be able to complete in a rapid fashion, and in fact, we may not have some of it," ICE officials told HHS. An HHS official replied and said their office had information on about 60 parents.
The vast incompetence of the Trump administration was hinted at during a court hearing later in the summer of 2018. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to reunite all separated families within 30 days in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. After the late July 2018 deadline passed and hundreds of families still were separated, Sabraw lambasted Trump officials.
"The parents didn't know where the children were, and the children didn't know where the parents were. And the government didn't know, either," Sabraw said.
"It is now clear beyond doubt that the government never had a proper tracking system but unfortunately they pretended in the beginning that they did," Lee Gelernt, lead attorney with the ACLU, told NBC News in response to the newly released emails. "It is likely there's still much more for the public to learn about how bad things really were," Gelernt added.
The Trump administration is still embroiled in a lawsuit with the ACLU over reuniting families. After stealing thousands and thousands of children away from their parents, the Trump administration is still resisting efforts to reunite them all in a timely fashion.
And while the Trump administration lies and fumbles about, an unknown number of children are forced to wait month after month without knowing when they will see their parents again.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.