New report details “ongoing trauma” of Trump's family separation policy

Washington — A new report on the Trump administration’s ill-fated “zero tolerance” policy reveals that children who were separated from their parents in the spring of 2018 are still in U.S. custody and details instances in which infants as young as 4 months old were held by the government for nearly half a year. The report released Friday by the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee provides new insight into the widespread implications, chaotic nature and lingering remnants of the policy. 

Based on documents provided by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health of Human Services (HHS), the 32-page report sheds new light into the scope of the controversial family separation practice near the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The policy — which Mr. Trump was forced to rescind through executive order last summer and days before a federal judge issued a ruling blocking the government from carrying it out — led to the separation of more than 2,600 migrant children from their parents or legal guardians. 

Family members embrace Leo Jeancarlo de Leon, 6, after he returned home from the U.S. on August 8, 2018 near San Marcos, Guatemala. He had been separated from his mother Lourdes de Leon for nearly three months as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy. John Moore / Getty Images

Litigation, government watchdogs and news reports had previously shown the administration did not have a plan for reuniting the families it separated. Although its height was between May and June of last year, the practice was implemented in late 2017 in the El Paso area through a secret pilot program. Some migrant families continued to be separated after the president’s executive order and the court decision.

But using previously undisclosed information gathered by CBP, ICE and HHS of some of the children who were separated, the congressional report served as a new withering rebuke of the “zero tolerance” policy. The new information is likely to further inflame Democrats and advocates, who’ve been outraged by reports of squalid conditions in detention centers for migrants and Mr. Trump’s threats to orders mass deportations. 

“The Committee’s investigation of the Trump Administration’s child separations has revealed harm inflicted on children beyond what was previously known, has refuted the Administration’s justification for this cruel policy, and has confirmed the ongoing trauma inflicted by these separations,” the report said. 

The government has never claimed to have reunited every child with their family and the new report reveals that indeed there are still separated children in HHS custody, despite the court ruling. 

One 9-year-old Guatemalan boy had been in HHS custody as of May of this year even though he was separated from his father, who was deported, in May 2018. The committee said the records it received do no show that the administration has taken any effort to reunite the father with his young son — who celebrated his ninth birthday in government custody. 

Another boy, a 14-year-old from Guatemala, was still in an HHS-overseen facility in Texas as of May 2019 — about one year since he and father were separated by the government. The father was deported in August 2018 but the committee said it has not received information about whether the administration has tried to reunite the family.

In this Dec. 13, 2018 file photo, migrant teens walk inside the Tornillo detention camp in Tornillo, Texas. A zero-tolerance order from President Donald Trump resulted in more than 2,500 migrant children being separated from their families. Andres Leighton / AP

Using the records it obtained, the committee found that 18 infants — children under the age of two — were separated from their parents under “zero tolerance,” and that some were held for as long as half a year. 

One 8-month-old baby from Honduras who was separated from his father in May 2018 spent nearly half his life in U.S. custody and without his parents. According to

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