Federal officials found 14 more children last week who had been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border this year, according to court records.
The government learned of the children during a records review, officials said in a status update for an ongoing class-action lawsuit regarding family separations. Officials do not plan to reunite half of those children with their parents because of the parents’ criminal histories.
The government “will further adjust their categorizations of children to the extent it becomes appropriate,” the court document said.
None of the newly discovered separation cases included children younger than 5, according to the court filing.
The federal government has been working to reunify families because of a June court order in a class action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in the Southern District of California.
Neither the Department of Health and Human Services, which conducted the review, nor the ACLU, which represents the plaintiffs, immediately responded to requests for comment.
Though family separations increased significantly because of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that ramped up prosecutions of illegal border crossings, some of the lawsuit’s class members, including lead plaintiff Ms. L, had their children taken away after asking for asylum at a port of entry.
The 14 children were added to a list of 2,654 other children whom the government has identified as separation cases.
More than 2,100 of those children have been reunified with their parents, according to the court filing. An additional 300 separated children have been “discharged under other appropriate circumstances,” the government said. That would include children being released to other family members living in the U.S. or turning 18 and probably being transferred to an adult immigration detention facility.
Two recent government oversight reports, one from the Government Accountability Office and the other from the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, have questioned the government’s ability to identify and track separated children.
Government officials did not take steps ahead of the zero tolerance policy to plan for increased family separations because they didn’t know the new policy was coming, the GAO reported, though officials responsible for the care of migrant children noticed an increase in separations well before that policy went into effect.
The agencies did not have a tracking system in place when Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions announced the policy in April, the report said.
Morrissey writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.