The administration of US President Donald Trump has separated thousands more immigrant children from their parents at the southern border than previously announced, US officials say.
“Thousands more children were separated from their families than we were previously told — and we still don’t even know exactly how many kids have been ripped from their families because the [Trump} Administration has failed to keep track,” Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson said on Thursday.
Thompson, who heads the House Committee on Homeland Security, criticized the Trump Administration for its cruel policy and disregard for the hapless refugees whose children were forcibly separated from the parents after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border from 2017-2018 .
“The Trump Administration, with its unique blend of incompetence, cruelty, and disregard for basic decency, misled the American public on one of its most heinous policies to date,” Thompson complained.
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which had responsibility for taking care of the refugee children, said the total number of minors separated from adults under the administration’s “zero-tolerance policy” towards immigrants remains unknown.
HHS said that so far it has identified 2,737 separated children placed in its care before the controversial policy was officially announced in May 2018.
After the administration’s “zero-tolerance policy” was announced, and before the policy was halted under political and legal pressure, another nearly 3,000 minors were separated from their parents or adult guardians, who were then arrested and charged with illegal entry into the country. Many parents later had to spend months to find their children.
Trump has defended his controversial policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the southern border.
Despite outcry from international rights activists, especially children’s rights defenders, who branded the separation of children from parents as a crime, Trump supported the move.
White House policy chief Stephen Miller said authorities had simply implemented the immigration law, and spread the message that “no one” would be exempt from the law.
“It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period,” Miller said at the time.
Experts say, however, that US immigration law did not demand from authorities to separate children from their parents at the border.