Newly released emails show that while the Trump administration was publicly promising to reunite the families it had separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, officials had no idea how they would accomplish that goal, according to NBC.
NBC reported on emails that show officials admitting in June 2018 that they had enough information only to reunite 60 families. The House Judiciary Committee provided NBC with the emails, which you can read here and here.
“[I]n short, no, we do not have any linkages from parents to [children], save for a handful,” an official from Health and Human Services official told a top official at Immigration and Customs Enforcement on June 23, 2018. “We have a list of parent alien numbers but no way to link them to children.”
On June 20, 2018, Trump announced an end to the “zero tolerance” policy. Three days later, HHS released a fact sheet saying that “[The] United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families,” and that there was “a process established to ensure that family members know the location of their children,” with “a central database which HHS and DHS can access and update.”
None of this seems to have been true. In reality, according to NBC, officials were quickly assembling an ad hoc spreadsheet by hand.
The emails also include correspondence between top immigration officials, including Matthew Albence, who is now the acting head of ICE, discussing the information they didn’t have.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was one of those who claimed that the administration were tracking all the separated families.
“It is not that I don’t know where they are,” Nielsen said at a June 2018 press conference at the White House. “I’m saying that the vast majority of children are held by Health and Human Services.”
Officials are still reviewing records to reconnect the families who were separated under the policy. Others, who were separated from their families before the official policy began, still haven’t been identified. Last week, a federal judge told the Trump administration that it had six months to identify every separated child. The administration has previously said it could take up to two years.
Albence didn’t respond to NBC’s request for comment. Fitzgerald referred NBC to DHS, which said that it “took the information about parents entered on spreadsheets and added it to a SharePoint site already populated by HHS with information about unaccompanied children.”
Read the rest of the story over at NBC.