The Trump administration separated 81 migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border since the June executive order that stopped the general practice amid a crackdown on illegal crossings, the Associated Press reports. Despite the order and a federal judge’s later ruling, immigration officials are allowed to separate a child from a parent in certain cases, including serious criminal charges against a parent, concerns over the health and welfare of a child or medical concerns. Those caveats were in place before the zero-tolerance policy that prompted the earlier separations at the border. The government decides whether a child fits into the areas of concern, worrying advocates who are afraid parents are being falsely labeled as criminals. From June 21, the day after President Trump’s order, through Tuesday, 76 adults were separated from the children.
Of those, 51 were criminally prosecuted — 31 with criminal histories and 20 for other unspecified reasons. Nine were hospitalized, 10 had gang affiliations and four had extraditable warrants. Two were separated because of prior immigration violations and orders of removal. “The welfare of children in our custody is paramount,” said Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. “As we have already said — and the numbers show: Separations are rare. While there was a brief increase during zero tolerance as more adults were prosecuted, the numbers have returned to their prior levels.” At its height over the summer, more than 2,400 children were separated. The practice prompted sparked global outrage from politicians, humanitarians and religious groups who called it cruel and callous.