The effort to reunite migrant children separated from their families under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy has proven too taxing, the administration said in a Friday court filing.
The Department of Health and Human Services inspector general released a report last month finding that “thousands” more children had been separated from their parents than Trump administration officials had originally acknowledged, according to HuffPost.
In the Friday filing, HHS officials admitted they are unsure exactly how many children were removed from their parents prior to the implementation of the “zero tolerance” policy last year and attempting to locate them would be too great a “burden”, as no official tracking system was in place.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is involved in an ongoing lawsuit with the federal government over the issue, was not impressed with the department’s excuse:
“The Trump administration’s response is a shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them,” said Lee Gelernt, the lead lawyer in the ACLU’s ongoing lawsuit against ICE, in a statement. “The administration also doesn’t dispute that separations are ongoing in significant numbers.”
“I think the policy of taking the children away in the first place was cruel,” said Gelernt, the ACLU lawyer, “but to not even have a system to return the parents to the children just increases the magnitude of the cruelty.”
The deputy director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Jallyn Sualog, said that 100 ORR analysts would have to work eight hours each day for between seven and 15 months to “even begin reconciling” data on separated families. “In my judgment, ORR does not have the requisite staff for such a project,” Sualog wrote in the declaration.