During the height of media attention on the family separation crisis last June, Trump officials were claiming that, sure, they could reunite thousands of parents and children cruelly ripped apart at the southern border, using a "central database.” That, emails obtained by NBC News show, was a lie. There was no such database, and the information they did have could reunite only 60 families out of the thousands. Sixty.
Publicly, NBC News reports, a Homeland Security fact sheet from that month claimed the administration had “a process established to ensure that family members know the location of their children," including "a central database which HHS and DHS can access and update." But the internal emails confirm the findings of an October 2018 report from the Homeland Security watchdog that “found no evidence of such a database.”
As was evident when the administration began scrambling to reunite the families it had ripped apart. "’[I]n short, no, we do not have any linkages from parents to [children], save for a handful,’ a Health and Human Services official told a top official at Immigration and Customs Enforcement on June 23, 2018,” NBC News reports. "We have a list of parent alien numbers but no way to link them to children." That top ICE official, Matthew Albence, is now acting director of ICE. Because what better way to punish an official for cruel incompetence than to promote him?
”You know when we put this out tonight, a couple people said to me, ‘did we already know this?’” MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff told Chris Hayes on Wednesday. “Yes, we did know that there was never a system, the HHS and the DHS inspector general made that very clear, as have subsequent testimonies, but we’ve never seen the behind-the-scenes, basically scrambling to figure out how to literally fill a spreadsheet.”