Days after President Donald Trump’s announcement of the cessation of “zero-tolerance” family separation immigration policy in June 2018, the Department of Homeland Security claimed in a fact sheet that it had a “central database” containing the locations of all the children in its custody, Slate reports. It further said that the administration had “a process established to ensure that family members know the location of their children.”
But emails provided to NBC News by the House Judiciary Committee tell a completely different narrative: the department did not have a system of information on both parents and their children and had no method of matching them together. Rather, the DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services, in charge of caring for the migrant children in state custody, were attempting to create one spreadsheet with the relevant information.
“[I]n short, no, we do not have any linkages from parents to [children], save for a handful,” an HHS official wrote in an email to an ICE agent on June 23. “We have a list of parent alien numbers but no way to link them to children.”
At the time, the Trump administration acknowledged that family reunification would be a lengthy process. Officials had to manually review documents for months to reunite nearly 3,000 families, but dozens of children still remain separated from their families and under HHS custody.
Both HHS and DHS denied failing to have measures in place to reunite parents with their children.