There has been confusion over how and why the government lost track of more than 1,000 immigrant children.
Current Affairs

Did the Trump Administration Separate Immigrant Children From Parents and Lose Them?

President Trump over the weekend falsely blamed Democrats for a “horrible law” separating immigrant children from their parents. In fact, his own administration had just announced this policy earlier this month.

His comments followed days of growing alarm that federal authorities have lost track of more than 1,000 immigrant children, mostly from Central America, giving rise to hashtags like #WhereAreTheChildren and claims that children are being ripped from their parents’ arms at the border and then being lost.

But the president is not the only one spreading wrong information. Across social media, there have been confusing reports of what happened to these immigrant children. Here are some answers.

Did the Trump administration separate nearly 1,500 immigrant children from their parents at the border, and then lose track of them?

No. The government did realize last year that it lost track of 1,475 migrant children it had placed with sponsors in the United States, according to testimony before a Senate subcommittee last month. But those children had arrived alone at the Southwest border — without their parents. Most of them are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and were fleeing drug cartels, gang violence and domestic abuse, according to government data.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees refugee resettlement, began making calls last year to determine what had happened to 7,635 children the government had helped place between last October and the end of the year.

From these calls, officials learned that 6,075 children remained with their sponsors. Twenty-eight had run away, five had been removed from the United States and 52 had relocated to live with a nonsponsor. The rest were unaccounted for, giving rise to the 1,475 number. It is possible that some of the adult sponsors simply chose not to respond to the agency.

Losing track of children who arrive at the border alone is not a new phenomenon. A 2016 inspector general report showed that the federal government was able to reach only 84 percent of children it had placed, leaving 4,159 unaccounted for.

On Monday evening, Eric Hargan, the deputy secretary for Health and Human Services, expressed frustration at the use of the term “lost” to refer to the 1,475 unaccounted-for children. In a statement, he said that the department’s office of refugee resettlement began voluntarily making the calls as a 30-day follow-up to make sure that the children and their sponsors did not require additional services. Those calls, which the office does not view as required, Mr. Hargan said, are now “being used to confuse and spread misinformation.”

Graphic II
Graphic II

In many cases, the statement said, sponsors cannot be reached because “they themselves are illegal aliens and do not want to be reached by federal authorities.”

Start of the 100m final @ Rio Olympics - Usain Bolt

Start of the 100m final @ Rio Olympics - Usain Bolt

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