The Health and Human Services Department said on Monday that it will no longer be disclosing exactly how many children it is holding who have been torn from their parents as part of the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
The Department of Homeland Security revealed the first official count of separated children on June 16, disclosing that 1,995 minors had been separated from 1,940 adults from April 19 through May 31. On June 26, the HHS said the number was 2,047. That was the last time the Trump administration provided any updates.
This extreme lack of transparency is, to say the least, shady. HHS’s decision to withhold this information underscores that the Trump administration would prefer to leave people in the dark when it comes to the effects of the family separation policy. It also points to the fact that it has no real plan to reunite families and doesn’t want to take responsibility if things go wrong.
The news came on the same day that 11 senators, including Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders, asked the HHS and DHS to provide an anonymized list of all migrant children and parents separated at the border by July 6. The letter also asks the agencies for weekly updates.
“We are deeply concerned by reports of chaotic attempts to reunify parents and children that have been separated at the border,” the letter read in part. “The hastily-signed order provided no clarity on how to reunify families, or how to handle families that have already been separated or new families that cross the border seeking asylum.” The letter also asked for a “detailed briefing” explaining how the HHS and DHS are working to reunite the families.
I have reached out to HHS to ask why it has made this decision and will update if I hear back.
Update, 9 p.m.: The Department of Health and Human Services responded with the following statement:
As HHS continues to evaluate the impact of the District Court ruling, and given the constantly changing number of unaccompanied alien children in our care (every day minors are referred to our care and released from our care to parents, close relatives or suitable sponsors), we are providing the total number of unaccompanied alien children in the care of HHS-funded grantees. While we understand the interest in detailed breakdowns of this information, our mission has been and remains to provide every minor transferred to HHS, regardless of the circumstances, with quality and age-appropriate care and a speedy and safe release to a sponsor. Currently, there are more than 11,800 minors in our care.
HHS’ Administration for Children and Families is focused on continuing to provide quality services and care to the minors in our Office of Refugee Resettlement-funded facilities and reunifying children and teenagers with a relative or appropriate sponsor as we have done since inheriting the program. Reunification is always the ultimate goal of those entrusted with the care of unaccompanied alien children, and we are working toward that for those unaccompanied alien children currently in our custody.