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Report: Trump Administration Wasn't Equipped To Track Families Separated By Zero Tolerance Policy

Veronica G. Cardenas for Texas Public Radio
A migrant father holds his child in Laredo.

A report by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general said the DHS did not have adequate technology to track families separated during the implementation of the Trump administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy across the U.S.-Mexico border.

The report said U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials knew about the technology deficiencies several months prior to the implementation of the Zero Tolerance Policy.

“CBP officials have been aware of these IT deficiencies since at least November 2017 when U.S. Border Patrol conducted an initiative that mirrored the Zero Tolerance Policy,” the report said. “These conditions persisted because CBP did not address its known IT deficiencies adequately before implementing Zero Tolerance in May 2018.”

DHS estimated that Border Patrol separated more than 3,000 children from their families after the policy went into effect in May 2018. The agency also said about 2,000 families were reunited.

The report's authors explained when they reviewed the data they found they could not confirm those numbers, and without a reliable account of all family relationships, they could not validate the total number of separations or reunifications.

“...We conducted a review of DHS data during the Zero Tolerance period and identified 136 children with potential family relationships who were not accurately recorded by CBP,” they wrote. “In a broader analysis of DHS data between the dates of October 1, 2017, to February 14, 2019, we identified an additional 1,233 children with potential family relationships that were not accurately recorded by CBP.”

CBP provided the Office of Management Budget with estimates that the agency would separate more than 26,000 families between May and September 2018 because of the Zero Tolerance Policy.

The OIG report concluded that the policy that broke up families did not achieve its original objective.

“Although DHS spent thousands of hours and more than $1 million in overtime costs, it did not achieve the original goal of deterring “Catch-and-Release” through the Zero Tolerance Policy,” the authors wrote. “Instead, thousands of detainees were released into the United States.”

Reynaldo Leaños Jr. can be reached at Reynaldo@TPR.org and on Twitter at @ReynaldoLeanos

DHS Lacked Technology Needed to Successfully Account for Separated Migrant Families by Texas Public Radio on Scribd

Reynaldo Leaños Jr. can be reached at reynaldo@tpr.org and on Twitter at @ReynaldoLeanos