Unpublished watchdog report exposes the continuing horrors of Trump's family separation — 2 years later
Two years after the Trump administration made the state-sanctioned kidnapping of children at the border official U.S. policy, the horrors around this crime against humanity continue to be exposed. According to an unpublished Homeland Security watchdog report obtained by BuzzFeed News, officials ripped apart dozens of families who had asked for asylum at U.S. ports of entry in 2018, despite public assurances that certain parents and children there wouldn’t be targeted.
“The report found that 40 children in this group were separated from their parents for at least four weeks, although one didn't see their family for more than a year,” BuzzFeed News’ Hamed Aleaziz reported. The report said that in one instance, officials separated a Guatemalan mother from all four of her children, including a 5-month-old infant. “The family was separated for seven weeks. The mother told inspector general investigators that she would no longer be able to nurse her child as a result,” Aleaziz reported.
The BuzzFeed News report said that former Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen had claimed families arriving at a port of entry would be separated only under very specific circumstances, including if the child was at risk, saying: “DHS is not separating families legitimately seeking asylum at ports of entry. If an adult enters at a port of entry and claims asylum, they will not face prosecution for illegal entry. They have not committed a crime by coming to the port of entry.”
But according to the unpublished Homeland Security inspector general report: “Between May and June 2018, Office of Field Operations staff, operating without clear guidance, separated at least 35 asylum-seeking families at ports of entry for reasons other than the children’s welfare or a ‘legal requirement,’ such as criminal warrants,” BuzzFeed News said. “One CBP official had said publicly in July 2018 that there had only been seven separations at the ports of entry during this time period.”
To be clear, no family should have been separated, whether or not they arrived at a U.S. port of entry, and this report continues to expose a brutal and inhumane practice by federal immigration officials to terrorize families to this very day.
Outraged advocates raised alarms last month that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials were presenting parents detained with their kids at migrant family jails with a cruel “binary choice”—either agree to have their kids released without them, or remain jailed together indefinitely. While ICE denied this, the agency’s own words said otherwise because a report it submitted to a court on the status of detained families lists row after row of “parent does not wish to separate.”
Earlier this year, Physicians for Human Rights said family separation constituted “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” that rose “to the level of torture,” further concluding it was a form of enforced disappearance, “which is prohibited under international law in all circumstances,” they wrote. The physicians interviewed 26 adults and children who were separated by the administration, which ultimately kidnapped nearly 5,500 children in total. Some families, the physicians said, were ripped apart without so much as a chance to say goodbye.
“Nine of the 17 parents reported to PHR clinicians that immigration authorities abruptly separated them from their children and that they were prohibited from saying goodbye or consoling them,” the report said. “Immigration authorities forcibly removed children from their parents’ arms, removed parents while their children slept, or simply ‘disappeared’ the children while their parents were in different holding cells or receiving medical care.”