Homeland Security suffered ‘persistent’ failures trying to reunite families separated at border, enforced policy even after losing track of headcount: IG report

Nov 27, 2019
In The News

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security planned to separate tens of thousands of children from their parents when it launched President Trump's shocking border crackdown last year — even as it knew it could not track and reunite families, a damning new inspector general report concludes.

Images of crying children and kids locked in chain-link cages horrified the country when the administration unleashed its "zero tolerance" campaign May of 2018.

According to the report from DHS's inspector general, the department estimates it separated 3,014 children from their families before the outcry forced the administration to end the draconian policy after six weeks. It had told the White House it would remove 26,000 kids by September, the report reveals.

Although a judge ordered DHS to return all the children to their families within 14 days, DHS failed miserably. Despite a seven-month effort, the IG report could not say all the kids were found. DHS estimated it made 2,155 reunifications, while the IG said its office uncovered another 136 children who may not have been counted at all.

In a wider estimate covering October 2017 to February 2019, the inspector general said it identified an additional 1,233 kids who may have been removed from families who also were not counted.

The failures "persisted because CBP did not address its known IT deficiencies adequately," the IG report said. "DHS also did not provide adequate guidance to personnel.”

DHS knew about the problems because it tried a pilot project around El Paso, Texas, in 2017, and found its systems did not work. Yet, "key stakeholders" in the administration pressed DHS to launched the bigger crackdown anyway.

The entire effort was a failure, the report found.

"It did not achieve the original goal of deterring 'Catch-and-Release' through the Zero Tolerance Policy," the report said. "Instead, thousands of detainees were released into the United States."

The government still doesn't know for sure how many families it busted up at the border.

"Because of these IT deficiencies, we could not confirm the total number of families DHS separated during the Zero Tolerance period," the report said.

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the findings revealed both the Trump administration's inhumanity and cluelessness.

“This report pulls back the curtain on the administration’s cruelty, incompetence, and indifference to the suffering of children," Maloney said. "Previous independent reports showed that the administration failed to track these children, and now we know why -— a rush to execute a callous and unnecessary policy and a willful blindness to known problems."

Overall, more than 5,400 children are estimated to have been taken from their families since 2017.