News & Politics

Trump Admin. Officials 'Destroyed' Records of Immigrant Kids Separated from Their Parents: Report

The administration seems to have no idea how to reunite the families it tore apart.

Photo Credit: Official DHS photo by Jetta Disco.

As the Trump administration struggles to clean up the mess it created when it started separating immigrant children and parents apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, a new report found that records that could help reunite the families have vanished, and some have even been destroyed.

The New York Times' Caitlin Dickerson reports that much of the confusion has been driven by the fact that multiple agencies — the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services in particular — are responsible for detaining the children. With the children moving between departments, documentation has proved a challenge.

Dickerson notes that HHS isn't always clear on who among the children it is responsible for were separated from their parents by the U.S. government and who arrived as unaccompanied minors.

The administration also announced Thursday that they have less than 3,000 children in custody who have been separated from their parents in total — an estimate that means the figure could be much larger than the 2,400 or so previously reported.

Perhaps the most troubling detail of the report, however, was this:

In hundreds of cases, Customs agents deleted the initial records in which parents and children were listed together as a family with a “family identification number,” according to two officials at the Department of Homeland Security, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the process.

As a result, the parents and children appeared in federal computers to have no connection to one another.

“That was the big problem. We weren’t able to see that information,” said one of the officials, who is directly involved in the reunification process.

It's becoming clear that not only did the administration not appreciate the cruelty of the policy it embarked upon, it has also completely botched the logistics. There are thousands of children who have been callously separated from their parents, and officials have no idea how to bring them back together again.

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.