Maloney Issues Statement on New Report Showing Trump Administration Failed to Track Separated Children

Nov 27, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Nov. 27, 2019)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement in response to a new report from the Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detailing how the Trump Administration separated children from their families even though they knew they could not track them:

“This report pulls back the curtain on the Administration’s cruelty, incompetence, and indifference to the suffering of children who were taken from their parents under President Trump’s child separation policy.  Previous independent reports showed that the Administration failed to track these children, and now we know why—a rush to execute a callous and unnecessary policy and a willful blindness to known problems.  This report reveals that the Administration planned to separate tens of thousands of additional kids before public outrage and a federal court forced them to retreat.  Protecting vulnerable children was a key priority for our late Chairman, and I intend to continue this important oversight to ensure that our government never does this again.”

Below are highlights from today’s report:

  • The IG found that “CBP did not address its known IT deficiencies adequately before implementing Zero Tolerance in May 2018” and that “DHS also did not provide adequate guidance to personnel responsible for executing the Zero Tolerance Policy.”
  • Senior Administration officials—including then-CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan—knew of serious deficiencies since late 2017 and took no action to address those issues before separating thousands of children in 2018:  “In November 2017, in an email to CBP’s Acting Commissioner [McAleenan] and ICE’s Acting Director, a senior HHS ORR official identified an increased number of detained migrant children needing placement.  The Acting Commissioner responded that CBP would coordinate with HHS on future plans for family separations.”
  • Nevertheless, the IG found that in 2018, DHS faced “significant challenges interfacing and coordinating with HHS” to ensure separated children were properly tracked and promptly transferred to HHS custody.
  • The Administration would have harmed even more children if global outcry and a court order had not ended the policy:  “In early May 2018, CBP provided the Office of Management [and] Budget (OMB) with estimates that it would separate more than 26,000 children between May and September 2018 because of Zero Tolerance.”
  • The report states:  “One senior CBP official who participated in Zero Tolerance Policy planning meetings stated that key stakeholders had pressured DHS to implement the policy in early May 2018 before identified deficiencies in [CBP’s detainee tracking system] were resolved.”  These meetings included senior officials from the White House and multiple federal agencies. 
  • The IG wrote:  “Due to the number of errors Border Patrol made in recording family separations, we determined that there was a high risk that DHS did not account for all separated children.”
  • At least 1,300 potential family relationship were not properly recorded.  For example, one 3-year old child later identified as separated by HHS had not been identified by CBP and as a result was not included in the federal lawsuit that led to court-ordered reunifications.
  • The IG concluded:  “we could not confirm the total number of families DHS separated during the Zero Tolerance period.”
  • The IG found that the Zero Tolerance Policy cost CBP more than 28,000 staff hours and $1.2 million in staff overtime and contributed to “overly crowded conditions” at Border Patrol facilities.

Today’s new report from the IG reinforces the Committee’s findings in a July 2019 staff report detailing the chaos and trauma caused by child separations, as well as a lack of candor from the Administration on the purpose of these separations.

In a previous report issued on July 2, 2019, the IG found that “overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained.”

Click here to read the new report.

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116th Congress