The New York Post: Family separations at border started months earlier than announced
President Donald Trump’s policy to separate children from their migrant parents at the U.S. border began nine months earlier than the White House acknowledged and could have resulted in more families being broken up than the administration admitted, according to a report on Sunday.
The “zero tolerance” strategy that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in April actually began in the “El Paso sector” between July and November 2017, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” reported, citing government documents.
It’s unclear how many parents and children were separated during those five months, the report said.
Like the “zero tolerance” policy, which Trump ended by executive order in June, the El Paso pilot program was intended to act as a deterrent to migrant families from arriving at the border to seek asylum.
But it didn’t work as planned.
“And the reason for that is, if your child was told today by the gangs, ‘Your life is at risk unless you start running drugs for us.’ You’re thinking much more about their safety today and tomorrow than you’re thinking about, ‘What’s going to happen once we get to our destination?’” Cecilia Munoz, who worked on immigration issues in the Obama administration, told CBS.
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Complicating the situation even more was that the new policy was rolled out without going through the usual review process, catching immigration officials off guard.
“Instead of patrolling and securing the border, officers had to supervise and take care of children,” said Scott Shuchart, who until recently worked at the office of civil rights at Homeland Security.
Immigration officials were caught flat-footed.
“If you’re going to separate families in the pursuit of an immigration policy – it was irresponsible to push that on top of a system that wasn’t prepared on the back end to allow the families to be reconciled later,” he said.
The White House claims that more than 2,600 children have been detained as a result of the policy, but news reports contend that more than 5,000 children have been held, CBS said.
Senior White House officials declined to comment.
Under the Trump policy announced by Sessions, prosecutors were encouraged to bring criminal charges against migrants caught illegally crossing the border.
Because the adults faced criminal charges and were placed in custody, their children could not be held with them. They were sent to foster families or placed in shelters located throughout the country.
This report originally appeared on NYPost.com.