The Department of Homeland Security separated thousands of migrant families under its “zero tolerance” policy despite knowing that it lacked the information technology to record and track the migrants, said a blistering report by the DHS Inspector General, NPR reports.
“Because of these IT deficiencies, we could not confirm the total number of families DHS separated during the Zero Tolerance period,” the report said.
“Without a reliable account of all family relationships, we could not validate the total number of separations, or reunifications.”
The report also disclosed that border officials planned to separate five times as many children than it did in 2018.
“In early May 2018, CBP (Customs and Border Protection) provided the Office of Management Budget with estimates that it would separate more than 26,000 children between May and September 2018,” the report said.
More than 5,000 children have been separated from their parents under the Trump administration policy designed to deter migrants from crossing the southern border, immigration advocates say.
“The report reveals shocking new details about the Trump administration’s cruel and unlawful family separations, concluding the government knew in advance that it had no tracking system but proceeded with ramping up separations anyway,” said the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lee Gelernt.
Gelernt said the administration had not disclosed the scope of its operation before now.
“Had it not been for the legal challenge and public outcry, the administration may very well have succeeded,” he said.
The outcry came after published reports and images of migrant children held in cages and distraught parents waiting for weeks before learning of their children’s whereabouts.
In June 2018, a federal judge in San Diego ordered the government to reunify the families and President Donald Trump signed an order ending the policy. Despite those actions, the practice persisted.