A new report from the House Oversight Committee says that at least 18 infants under the age of two were separated from their parents at government-run migrant centers, some for as long as six months.
The report issued on Friday focuses on children who were separated after the Trump administration initiated its ‘zero tolerance policy’ in April 2018, and who were still in custody as of June 26, 2018.
In June of last year, the administration ended the policy of arresting and charging all adults who crossed the border illegally, separating them from any children, following immense backlash.
The Democrats on the committee call the former policy that resulted in separating children ‘a deliberate, unnecessary and cruel choice’ by President
An immigrant family is detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials after crossing illegally into the US and turning themselves in to Border Patrol in El Paso on July 9
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) wipes a tear during a House Oversight and Reform hearing discussing migrant detention centers’ treatment of children on Wednesday. Hearings continue on Friday focused on child separation at the border
Among the key findings of the report from the Democrat-led House committee are:
- At least 18 infants and toddlers under two years old were taken away from their parents at the border and kept apart for 20 days to half a year.
- At least 241 separated children were kept in Border Patrol facilities longer than the 72 hours permitted by law.
- Many separated children were kept in government custody far longer than previously known—at least 679 were held for 46 to 75 days, more than 50 were held for six months to a year, and more than 25 were held for more than a year
- Even after being reunited with their parents, hundreds of separated children continued to be detained for months in family detention facilities—far longer than the 20-day limit under the Flores case.
- More than 400 children were moved to multiple CBP facilities, more than 80 children were moved to multiple ORR facilities, and at least five children were moved to multiple ICE facilities—including to one, Port Isabel, after the Administration claimed that ‘no children will be housed at the facility … even for short periods.’
- At least ten separated children were sent to the ‘tent city’ in Tornillo, Texas, the notorious emergency influx facility near El Paso, before the CEO of the facility’s parent company refused to continue operations as a result of the Administration’s pressure to expand capacity despite delays in releasing children.
‘Americans across the country are shocked and deeply concerned about the cruel and inhumane detention centers at the border and the Trump Administration’s unacceptable family separation policy,’ said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the chair of the Oversight Committee, in a statement.
Overcrowding of migrant families is seen at a CBP station in McAllen, Texas on June 11, 2019
The committee was holding a hearing on the issue Friday.
Trump says his immigration policies are meant to keep the country safe.
His defenders have said that legal restrictions force authorities to choose between detaining parents who cross the border illegally but separating them from children, or releasing entire family units into the interior.
‘If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then the Department of Homeland Security will arrest you and the Department of Justice will prosecute you,’ then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in June of last year. ‘However, we are not sending children to jail with their parents.’
Following the end of the zero-tolerance police, Customs and Border Protection has reported a massive surge of family units illegally crossing the south
Developing story, check back for updates.