The House Judiciary Committee said following an exhaustive, 21-month-long investigation that the Trump administration started planning to separate families just weeks after impeached President Donald Trump took office, and that when it did begin “piloting” the policy, it failed to inform the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the federal agency tasked with caring for children who typically arrive to the U.S. alone, that it would be carrying out this crime at the southern border.
“Accustomed to caring for migrant children who arrive unaccompanied at the border, ORR leadership did not initially question the reason for the growing number of children entering into their custody during the summer of 2017,” the report said. But even after leaders raised alarms after seeing a massive surge of separated children being sent to the agency, “ORR was not informed of the ongoing pilot program for at least three months after its initiation.”
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“By September 2017, ORR leadership began expressing concern with the increasing number of children—including infants—that were being referred to ORR after separation from a parent,” the report said. “We had a shortage last night of beds for babies,” Commander Jonathan White, a former ORR career official, emailed former ORR director Scott Lloyd in November. “Overall, infant placements seem to be climbing over recent weeks, and we think that’s due to more separations from mothers by CBP.”
But White’s urgent inquiries to top administration officials went largely ignored, the report continued.
“Six days later, Commander White raised the alarm again, this time emailing Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, ICE Director Tom Homan, and ORR Director Lloyd to once again notify them of the increase in referrals of separated children and to express similar concerns regarding ORR’s capacity to accommodate these children,” the report said. “After three weeks, Acting CBP Commissioner McAleenan finally responded, noting that Commander White and ORR should have ‘seen a change in the past 10 days or so’ and stating that they would coordinate on future plans.”
“Commissioner McAleenan did not disclose to HHS that CBP had just completed the El Paso Pilot Program,” the report continued. The full report, available here, also continues to confirm that the administration carried out this state-sanctioned kidnapping with no intention of reuniting these children with their parents.
“At the end of the pilot, CBP headquarters became aware of a ‘deficiency’ in its records systems that prevented government officials from tracking separated children and parents,” the report continued. “Although CBP agents in El Paso asked CBP headquarters to address this issue, CBP failed to make any changes to its records systems to fix the tracking problem.”
Rather than not continuing on with this effort, the administration went full-steam ahead with the 2018 family separation policy, continuing one of the worst humanitarian disasters in modern U.S. history. Three years after that initial piloting, hundreds of children remain separated from their parents because we can’t find them.
“Despite full knowledge that hundreds of children would likely be lost to their families forever, the administration chose to expand the pilot program into a permanent nationwide policy,” the report said. “As administration officials had predicted, the government lacked the capacity to track separated family members. Efforts to reunify separated children continue to this day.”
Advocates continued demanding justice for families following the report’s release, saying that “[w]hile the harms wrought by family separation can never fully heal, a criminal investigation is a critical and necessary step to ensure that such wrongs are never repeated.”
“Any government officials who participated in, ordered, authorized, condoned, or acquiesced in torture or other crimes should be investigated,” Amnesty International USA said. “There must be an effective criminal investigation of all government officials, personnel, and contractors who are responsible for this shameful period of our history—no matter their current or former level of office."