The Washington Post obtained an unpublished report from the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog, and the results are stunning. The summary:
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” crackdown at the border this spring was troubled from the outset by planning shortfalls, widespread communication failures and administrative indifference to the separation of small children from their parents…
As WaPo noted, this is the government’s first attempt at an “autopsy” of the disastrous child separation policy that came into full swing between May 5 and June 20, when it was stopped under intense public protest. The findings:
—More than 860 minors were held for longer than the 72-hour limit. One was held for 12 days, another for 25.
—A number of children were kept in “chain-link holding pens” in southern Texas with no beds or showers.
—The communication between agencies like DHS and Health and Human Services were bad enough that staffers were forced to send information to each other by private email due to system failures. The “human error” was so great that children became lost in the system.
This, though, may be the most devastating passage in the story:
Based on observations conducted by DHS inspectors at multiple facilities along the border in late June, agents separated children too young to talk from their parents in a way that courted disaster, the report says.
“Border Patrol does not provide pre-verbal children with wrist bracelets or other means of identification, nor does Border Patrol fingerprint or photograph most children during processing to ensure that they can be easily linked with the proper file,” the report said.
The announcement on June 23 that DHS had developed a “central database” to coordinate with HHS on reuniting families was also apparently false.
Even today, three months after the separation policy ended, more than 100 children remained separated and are being held in detention.
In short, one of the ugliest chapters in American history was marked not just by cruelty, but also by rank bureaucratic incompetence. The effects on the detained children will last a lifetime, and the unbelievable truth is that some of those children have still not been reunited with their families—long after the dispiriting saga was meant to be “over.”