A new report from a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) watchdog found the Trump administration failed to give some parents the option of reuniting with their children before deporting them under its family separation policy.
A report from DHS’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found the Trump administration separated families even in instances when parents facing deportation wished to return to their home country with their children.
“ICE removed at least 348 parents separated from their children without documenting that those parents wanted to leave their children in the United States,” OIG wrote in its report, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“In fact, ICE removed some parents without their children despite having evidence the parents wanted to bring their children back to their home country."
The Trump administration officially kicked off its "zero tolerance" policy in 2018, but the the OIG report found the more than 300 separations predated the family separation policy and were a result of “increasing criminal prosecutions in July 2017” where individual ICE officers carried significant discretion over separations.
“Even when ICE documented a parent’s choice to leave the child behind, some of the available records are significantly flawed, suggesting that not all parents who purportedly waived reunification did so knowingly and voluntarily,” the OIG concluded.
The Trump administration separated roughly 2,800 children from their parents under the 2018 policy, with October court documents showing more than 500 were never reunited with their parents.
The Biden administration's family reunification task force, however, is currently reviewing some 5,600 recently discovered files to determine if there were other affected families.
The administration also recently announced that families separated under Trump would have the option of reuniting and remaining in the U.S.
“We are hoping to reunite the families, either here or in their country of origin. We hope to be in a position to give them the election. And if in fact they seek to reunite here in the United States, we will explore lawful pathways for them to remain in the United States, and to address the family needs,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in March.
The Biden administration has thus far reunited four families separated under the Trump administration.
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