The Trump administration started a pilot program of ripping children away from their parents at the border long before they announced their zero tolerance policy. The number of immigrant children that have been torn away from their parents is actually more than double what we have been told.
On Friday, NBC News reported,
“The government was separating migrant parents from their kids for months prior to the official introduction of zero tolerance, running what a U.S. official called a “pilot program” for widespread prosecutions in Texas, but apparently did not create a clear system for parents to track or reunite with their kids.”
The Trump administration has claimed that at least 2,342 children have been separated from their parents at the border since May 5 when their “zero tolerance” policy went into effect. But they’re not telling the whole truth.
The Department of Homeland Security now tells NBC that nearly 2,000 kids were separated from their families before the administration ever announced their new policy. By February of this year, the Trump administration had already taken 1,768 children. That means that the real number of separated kids is well over 4,000.
It is unclear how many children were taken in March and April of this year because DHS is refusing to make the data for those months public.
“But the DHS official also confirmed to NBC that, from July 2017 to October 2017, the Trump administration ran what the official called a “pilot program” for zero tolerance in El Paso.
Court records and interviews with migrants show that during that period federal prosecutors began to criminally charge any adult who crossed the border unlawfully in the El Paso sector, which spans from New Mexico to West Texas. Parents arriving with young children were not exempt.
“This was happening in El Paso before it was news,” said Linda Rivas, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. “People didn’t believe it.””
Even families who were seeking asylum were caught up in the El Paso experiment. One mother named Jocelyn crossed the border with her son near El Paso in August of last year. She was apprehended and separated from her son. Her son was sent to a shelter in Chicago. And she says that it was over two months before she ever heard any news of him. It was another nine months before they were reunited.
“It’s something that it’s difficult to forget,” Jocelyn said. “It will be with us for a very long time. We looked for protection and then this horrible thing happened.”