Child Separation Policy at Border Led to Procedural, Personal Chaos, Says Inspector General Report

Children imprisoned longer than legal limit, resources directed away from actual border security, misleading statements about databases all surround the "zero tolerance" border policy

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The practice of separating children from their parents during border-crossing arrests left border officials "not fully prepared to implement the Administration's Zero Tolerance Policy or to deal with some of its after-effects," according to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General (IG). "The Zero Tolerance Policy…fundamentally changed DHS' approach to immigration enforcement," the IG concluded.


"Detaining unaccompanied alien children for extended periods resulted in some CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] employees being less able to focus on their primary mission," the IG report says. "Instead of patrolling and securing the border, officers had to supervise and take care of children."

As the Washington Post reported on the study, federal authorities had a hard time following their own rules for this heinous practice, with "at least 860 migrant children…left in Border Patrol holding cells longer than the 72-hour limit mandated by U.S. courts, with one minor confined for 12 days and another for 25." The chain-link holding pens for kids in southern Texas lacked beds or showers.

The IG report, sums up the Post,

"describe[s] a poorly coordinated interagency process that left distraught parents with little or no knowledge of their children's whereabouts…..U.S. officials were forced to share minors' files on Microsoft Word documents sent as email attachments because the government's internal systems couldn't communicate…Based on observations conducted by DHS inspectors at multiple facilities along the border in late June, agents separated children too young to talk from their parents in a way that courted disaster, the report says."

The IG report also reveals that a DHS announcement in June, after the child separation practice was halted, about an alleged "central database" regarding the location of separated children turned out to be untrue.

In a Senate hearing Wednesday before the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was asked about the IG report and admitted, "[W]e do not have detention facilities at DHS for 10,000 children who were sent here unaccompanied." She blamed this not on government policy, but on the fact that "their parents chose to do that." The Committee believes as of last week that 104 separated children who should have been returned this summer based on court order are still not reunited with their parents.

Sen. James Lackford (R–Okla.) praised Nielsen at today's hearing, saying her agency is "putting a positive face forward for America to be able to help provide care for kids who are in a vulnerable moment. I appreciate that."

The child-detention policy the IG report focused on continues to effect lives of would-be immigrants and the practice of border security. The Post reports this week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), facing an overload of arrests on the Arizona border, "can no longer conduct basic reviews of migrants' case files and travel plans without running the risk of exceeding court-imposed limits on how long children can be held in immigration jails." The agency has thus taken to "dropping off busloads of families at church shelters and charities, some with ankle monitoring bracelets…."

The ICE spokeswoman blamed circumstances other than the agency's mission, which is largely to violently halt the free movement of people: "After decades of inaction by Congress, the government remains severely constrained in its ability to detain and promptly remove families that have no legal basis to remain in the United States," the ICE statement said. Most of the current influx in Arizona is thought to be from Guatemala in what an unnamed ICE official called "a well-orchestrated smuggling venture" (of the sort that's only necessary because would-be migrants can't legally come in via, say, a bus ticket).

As of last month, The New York Times reported that "[p]opulation levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children ha[d] quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer…reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017."

And what might the eventual fate of children thus separated from their parents by U.S. border law enforcement be? As the Associated Press reported this week, in some cases it can result in the children being permanently kept from their parents via adoption to American families:

More than 300 parents were deported to Central America without their children this summer, many of whom allege they were coerced into signing paperwork they didn't understand, affecting their rights to reunify with their children. Some parents also contended that U.S. officials told them their children would be given up for adoption.

"And the reality is that for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanent orphaned child, and that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration," U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said in August while overseeing a lawsuit to stop family separations.

The AP asked the State Department, as well as embassy officials in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, whether they were working with deported parents to find their children in the U.S.

The State Department deferred to the Department of Homeland Security, which said in a statement: "DHS is not aware of anyone contacting embassy or consulate in a foreign country to be reunified with a child. This is unsurprising given the fact that these parents made a knowing decision to leave their child in a foreign country."

This is not just a mess, but a travesty.


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  1. “the sort that’s only necessary because would-be migrants can’t legally come in via, say, a bus ticket”

    Fuck off.

    1. They can’t come in with an airline ticket, why a special dispensation for bus riders?

      Why does Reason hate people who can afford airfare?

    2. You’re a bigot, Bubba. Your next contribution to our society will occur when you take your ugly, stale thinking to the grave and are replaced by a decent, better person in our electorate.

      1. But you said you don’t want any restrictions on who lives here. You have no grounds to oppose me.

      2. You need to be more interesting. Hihn has his mania and sock puppets, and is at least mildly amusing. I’d hate for people to not take you seriously.

    3. The open border and Lefty arguments about this issue are getting more desperate.

  2. The ICE spokeswoman blamed circumstances other than the agency’s mission, which is largely to violently halt the free movement of people

    You don’t have a right to move freely across national borders, just like you don’t have a right to move freely across my yard.

    1. Your right to prevent people from moving across your yard ends at your yard’s border. You have ZERO RIGHT to prevent people from crossing my yard. Ditto for the national border. Unless your yard abuts the national border, you have no right to prevent people from crossing it. You do not own the national border.

      Immigration across borders is an administrative issue, not an act of criminal trespass. Acting like you have the right to shoot children for crossing an imaginary line is fucking twisted.

      1. Whaaat?!?! It was an ability, dumbass. Do you work at being this obtuse, or is it a gift.

        1. “Anology” not “ability”. Fuck autocorrect.

          1. “The chain-link holding pens for kids in southern Texas lacked beds or showers.”

            So then give them their showers, but include Zyklon-B as a delousing agent.

            There, now, will all of ye illegal-human-haters finally be satisfied?

    2. This is Reason. They get many things right, but are so incandescently wrong and stupid on illegal – yes bitches, ILLEGAL – immigration that it basically cancels out the rest.

      1. Hey, look — some retrograde, can’t-keep-up conservatives want to convene a meeting of “Libertarians For Authoritarian, Bigoted, Cruel Immigration Policies and Practices.”

        Do you right-wing goobers know how silly you look in that garish, unconvincing libertarian drag?

        1. So right.

          An Owl, why are you even here? Just to bait libertarians?

          What part of of libertarianism do you buy into?

        2. Another constitutionalist on the court.

          The Clingers win again!

  3. We need to shutdown ICE until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on!

    Also while I’m at dept of ed, epa, fda, usda, dept of commerce, dea, fbi…

    1. Yeah, whatever happened to that sentiment?

      1. It died when the GOP nominated Trump in 2016.

  4. Reverse colonialism is what we (Americans) deserve, no?

    1. At least the Indians got to put up a good fight before being forced to hand over their land. We’re forced to sit on our hands while these assholes hand it out from underneath our feet.

    2. At least, that’s what white male Americans deserve.

      Whitey is the Devil!

  5. “Instead of patrolling and securing the border, officers had to supervise and take care of children.”

    “… and other duties as assigned.”

  6. No sympathy whatsoever. If you illegally bring your child on a perilous journey, guided by criminal gangs, across a dangerous border, where you know you’ll either be separated or housed with God knows what dirtbags, YOURE AN UNFIT PARENT!!!

    Baby Moses on a unicycle, CPS takes kids for being left alone on a back yard swing set, or left alone in the car for five minutes while Mommy runs into the store. But put your children under the tender mercies of the Sonola drug cartel, crossing a barren desert, with a good chance of incarceration at the end, and you’re parent of the effing year?!?!

    Jesus wept. I don’t know what to say.

    1. “Distrust all those in whom the urge to punish is strong.”

      ? Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      Too many people and too many societies get too many big boners about punishing and justice, and they forget all about mercy.

      “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13.

      People WILL disobey any rules you care to make up! And then you have to decide, is all this punishment worth the costs?

      1. no body is being punished they are only being held until their status can be determined and then they are either released into the population or returned to where they came from. and if they choose to they can return immediately and never be incarcerated.

        1. “no body is being punished …”

          Except for the babies snatched from their mommas’ arms, then sent away to another concentration camp hundreds of miles away, and then lost track of (which baby belongs to which momma, which was not even done under FDR’s concentration camps for Japanese-Americans).

          Babies belong with their mommas, except if momma is eating them alive! Government Almighty is NOT generally a good replacement for momma!

          1. Libertarians vs. the State – it’s a cryin’ shame they both can’t lose!

        2. You read the articles, right? The parts where children were taken from their parents, the parents railroaded into signing their rights away, and then deported?

          And you don’t believe that no one is being punished. Obviously immigrants are being punished. They’re being made into examples, in a cowardly attempt to curtail immigration.

          I don’t know what you Trump fuckers are afraid of – everything shows that the immigrants you’re worried about aren’t a threat to anything real – but I hope we get 10x of it so you can really freak out.

        3. MAGA

        4. no body is being punished they are only being held

          See, it’s not really a jail. It’s a “detention center”. It says so right on the sign.

          1. Deport them all.

    2. CPS takes as orders of magnitude more kids than ICE.

      1. They don’t matter.
        They’re only American kids.


  7. Learn as you go and rearrange as needed. not a problem and pretty much how life works in the real world

  8. They’re illegals. They’re just animals. Humans have permission slips. They don’t. So separate their families. Who cares? It’s not like they’re people.

    1. Familues are seoarated when common sense, sensible gun legislation is enforced.

  9. How do we know they are families, though?

    1. DNA testing?

  10. Gee, maybe they should have stayed in their own countries.

  11. If only there was a solution to the problem of children being separated from their parents when they choose to break our immigration laws.

  12. Well, gee, I guess we should just let everyone in no-questions-asked and let them vote (D)…who are we to deny entry? That sketchy guy with his “daughter” are, likes, totes legit.

    The hand-wringing is so smarmy.

  13. This is not just a mess, but a travesty.

    No. It is kidnapping and human trafficking. And the only ‘solution’ (because it’s the only way the govt will say what is actually going on – otherwise they will keep transferring them to state-level to go into ‘adoption’) is to publicly auction those kids off.

  14. “Child Separation Policy at Border Led to Procedural, Personal Chaos, Says Inspector General Report”

    20 Million Invaders Led to Procedural, Personal Chaos

  15. What’s a good number per year? 100,000, 250,000, 500,000, 1,000,000, 2,000,000, 5,000,000. More? Lots of poor kids in Africa, Asia, South America, and Caribbean need urgent help and are being discriminated against by virtue of not having a land border with the USA

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