At least 2,400 immigrant family separations have occurred at the border since late 2016, Reuters reported Friday, and that number spiked with the Trump administration’s new policy of prosecuting every adult caught illegally crossing the border.
An unnamed senior government official told Reuters that nearly 1,800 immigrant families were separated at the border between October 2016 and February 2018. (The report later states there were “1,768 cases of families separated by border agents between October 2016 and February .”)
The same source “acknowledged,” in Reuters’ words, “the number of separations had risen sharply in recent weeks, largely because of new administration policies.”
In early May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new policy of prosecuting all illegal border crossers — including those who claim asylum — and separating adults facing criminal penalties from their children, who cannot be held in criminal detention.
Reuters also cited the May 23 congressional testimony (see 1:19:55) of Richard Hudson, deputy chief of operational programs for Customs and Border Protection: “If you’re talking about the zero-tolerance prosecution initiative, from May 6 when this started, until May 19, our records show that 658 children with 638 adults have been in the prosecution process,” Hudson told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
That, Reuters noted, brings the total separations to more than 2,400, with likely more than that; the number does not include separations between March 1 and May 6, nor those since May 19.
Reuters’ source could not say, the outlet reported, whether or not there had in fact been any family separations in the last three months of the Obama administration.
In most cases of separation between October 2016 and February 2018, the outlet said, “children were removed from parents for medical reasons or because of security concerns, the official said, citing examples such as parents needing hospitalization or officials discovering the parent had a criminal record either in the United States or in their home country.”
And the source said 237 recorded separations were due to border agents’ suspicions that “adults were falsely posing as the parents of minors in their charge.”
The source said the families separated between October 2016 and February 2018 represented two percent of all families arrested along the border in that time.
Given Sessions’ stated wish to prosecute “100 percent” of illegal border crossers — which would involve separating children from their parents — that percentage will only grow as a result of the Trump administration’s new policy.
“That would be a possible assumption that this [could] continue at that level,” Hudson told Feinstein in May, referring to the rate of family separation following the Trump administration’s new policy.
The New York Times reported on April 20 of this year, citing Department of Health and Human Services data, that “more than 700” children had been taken from their parents between then and October 2017.