Everyone with a working heart and functioning conscience is disturbed to distraction about the Trump administration policy of separating children from their parents. The lost children made that even more upsetting.
The Trump admin has likely lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children, thousands more than lawmakers were alerted to last month, according to an exclusive by McClatchy based on a review of federal data.
The report by Franco Ordoñez and Anita Kumar states that while federal officials acknowledged losing nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors arrived on the southern border alone, “those numbers were only a snapshot of a three- month period during the last fiscal year.”
It gets much worse.
“There is a lot more,” said a field specialist who worked in the Office of Refugee Resettlement until earlier this year and was tasked with reaching out to sponsors and children to check on their well-being. “You can bet that the numbers are higher. It doesn’t really give you a real picture.”
But to come up with the 1,475 cases, the administration reached out to only 7,635 children and their sponsors. It placed more than 42,497 unaccompanied children with sponsors in fiscal year 2017.
HHS told McClatchy it didn’t have the data of unaccounted children in a reportable format. But based on its own estimates that 14 percent didn’t return calls, some 5,945 unaccompanied children are likely unaccounted for. The numbers would be even higher in fiscal year 2016, which included the end of President Barack Obama’s final term when the administration placed more than 52,000 children with sponsors.
While children were placed with sponsors during the Obama administration, it’s important to note that separating children deliberately was not a policy of Obama’s. Separating children on purpose is the result of the “zero-tolerance” immigration policy the Trump administration has implemented. This is what the outrage is about, because separating children from their parents is inhumane and has been denounced even by some conservative religious figures.
The outcry over the “lost” children was originally about HHS losing track of 1,475 children who crossed into the United States from Mexico by themselves and were placed with sponsors, over three months of 2017.
Deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan issued a statement and fact sheet at the time saying the department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement attempted to follow up on the 2016 release of unaccompanied children by contacting their families, a step he said was not required of the department.
The Trump administration claimed that children whose sponsors didn’t respond to phone calls were not lost, but that the Office of Refugee Resettlement is no longer legally responsible for the children once they are homed with a sponsor.
The bottom line is that immigration policy is hard and it can’t be solved easily, and most certainly can’t be solved by ignorant people who don’t bother to learn history or learn why previous administrations handled things the way they have.
The Trump administration is blocking asylum seekers from presenting at legal ports of entry to ask for help. So They have to cross the border to ask for help as they flee from violence and poverty. When they do, their children are torn away from them because they are now “criminals.”
The Trump administration, party of “family values,” has now lost likely near 6,000 children.
There is no “horrible law” requires that children be separated from their parents “once they cross the Border into the U.S.” This is a Trump order regarding how to implement existing immigration law. Trump could stop it any time he wanted to.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.