By Ariel Scotti / January 18, 2019

Immigration Agents Separated More Children From Parents Than Previously Reported

The total number of children parted from their parents is unknown but assumed to be in the "thousands."

child separation
Although President Trump was forced to reverse his policy of removing all children from their immigrant or asylum-seeking parents, little clarity appears to be seen as to how agencies can fulfill a court order to reunite thousands of children and parents detained far apart by multiple agencies. (David McNew/Getty Images)

For nearly a year before the Trump administration’s controversial and widely unpopular “zero tolerance” policy at the southern border that separated families became official, federal immigration agents tore “thousands” of migrant children from their parents.

That’s the finding of a government watchdog report released Thursday.

“OIG found more children over a longer period of time were separated by immigration authorities and referred to HHS for care than is commonly discussed in public debate,” assistant inspector general for evaluations at the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services, Ann Maxwell, said, according to NPR. 

“How many more children were separated is unknown by us and HHS,” Maxwell continued, before saying that HHS officials estimated the number of children was in the “thousands.”

As NPR noted, the report is the first official U.S. government acknowledgment that the Trump administration was using family separation as a means of deterring illegal immigration nearly a year before it became official DHS policy.

The Trump administration was, therefore, engaged in an aggressive and unreported policy to separate families long before the issue exploded into the headlines in April 2018 — when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all parents who crossed the border illegally would be prosecuted and that the government would take their children into custody.

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