As part of a court-ordered review of potentially thousands of additional family separations at the border, the Trump administration has identified over 1,700 cases that may involve migrant children being separated from their parents at the border.
That number is in addition to the roughly 2,800 kids previously identified by the government as having been separated from their families as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. And with officials having pored over only a partial sampling of the 47,000 cases the government must review in coming months, the number of children separated from their parents at the border could actually be much higher.
Not all of the 1,712 cases identified by the government may involve separations, but those cases did show “some preliminary indication of separation” and have been sent to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for further review, Cmdr. Jonathan White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps told a court on Friday, according to CNN.
“What we transmit to CBP is solely those cases that have some preliminary indication of separation,” White said. “We err on the side of inclusion.”
The new review was ordered by the court after it was discovered that family separations at the border were occurring long before the Trump administration officially declared its “zero tolerance” policy had taken effect in May 2018. Separations had been occurring since at least July 2017.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw gave the administration until Oct. 25 to identify all of the remaining children who had been separated but not accounted for. Sabraw has been overseeing the case brought by the ACLU and other groups. The 47,000 cases the government must now review cover all unaccompanied children who were in U.S. custody from July 1, 2017 to July 25, 2018. To date, the corps has reviewed about 13,000 of those cases.
In January, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services released a damning report that found that more children were separated by immigration authorities than “commonly discussed.” HHS had identified 2,737 separated children, but that number “represented a specific subset,” meaning potentially “thousands of other children” had been separated.
Of that initial group, about 200 children remain separated from their families, mostly because their parents were deported while they were detained.
Once the Public Health Service team completes its preliminary review, case files with indication of separation then go to CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further analysis. Then a refined list will go back to the Department of Health and Human Services. As they confirm additional separations, officials will provide a list of parents and children to ACLU attorneys on a rolling basis.
HHS also plans to hire a team of data scientists to help review the cases.
Regarding the 1,700 new cases sent to CBP for review, the ACLU’s lead attorney in the lawsuit, Lee Gelernt, said, “If the final number turns out to anywhere near 1700, that’s a lot of additional hardship and a lot of work for us to do locating these families,” NBC News reported.