Things That Matter

A New Investigation Uncovered Another 1500 Children Separated By Trump Zero Tolerance Policy

During two months in 2018, the Trump Administration inflicted the separation of undocumented families at the border who were seeking asylum or attempting to cross the southern country line. The policy was called “zero-tolerance,” and at the time of the announcement, former General Jeff Sessions firmly stated at the border that “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple.” He also added, “If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.” That’s exactly what they did. When all was said in done, after the uproar of seeing crying children being taken away from their families and placed in cages, federal courts ordered the Trump Administration to end the policy. The government initially admitted that they had separated almost 3,000 kids from their parents. It turns out they were way, way off. 

A new report shows that the Trump Administration separated 1,556 more children on top of the 2,737 children they previously had admitted to releasing.

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On Oct. 24, after a federal judge ordered the government to release data about the children that were separated in 2018 in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) finally got the figures after six months. 

“The Trump administration admitted to a federal court that it ripped an additional 1,556 parents and children from each other under its illegal family separation policy,” the ACLU said in a statement. 

The court order came after the ACLU sued the government for information on the children after an earlier report in which the government admitted they didn’t know exactly how many children were separated, but it was probably “thousands.”

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In January, the Department of Health and Human Services and the inspector general said they couldn’t know for sure how many children were separated because they didn’t have proper records

“The total number and current status of all children separated from their parents or guardians by United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and referred to Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) care is unknown,” the report states. That report is what prompted the lawsuit from the ACLU demanding a thorough investigation to find those children. 

Lee Gelernt, lead attorney in the family separation lawsuit and deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, had this reaction to the final figures: “It is shocking that 1,556 more families — including babies and toddlers — join the thousands of others already torn apart by this inhumane and illegal policy. Families have suffered tremendously, and some may never recover. The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated.”

The ACLU has been diligently working hard on finding the children and also suing the government for the trauma they caused the separated families.

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The ACLU filed the class action lawsuit — Ms. L v. ICE — against the government for illegally separating families and instilling lifelong trauma on the victims. 

“The suffering and trauma inflicted on these little children and parents is horrific,” Gelernt said in a statement. “Tragically, it could take years for these families to heal. Some may never recover, but we are fighting to give them a chance.”

The “Zero-Tolerance” Policy began in April 2018 and was forced to end in June 2018. In just that short time, so much damage was caused on vulnerable people seeking asylum. 

While the policy was supposed to end in June of 2018, it was reported that families were still being separated long after that. A New York Times article said that at least 900 families were separated after June 2018.

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“The administration is still doing family separation under the guise that they are protecting children from their parents, even though the criminal history they are citing is either wrong or shockingly minor,” Gelernt told the New York Times in July. “This is just circumventing the court’s order.”

During a panel at a Forbes event, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was in charge during this period, said she had no regrets over making sure the “zero-tolerance” policy was being enforced because she was doing her job. The only reason she left her post was that she was saying “no” too much. 

“I don’t regret enforcing the law, because I took an oath to do that,” Nielsen said, according to CNN. She added that she was there to “enforce the law, not to separate families.”

READ: Government Officials Report That Reuniting Separated Families Will Take Two Years

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