WASHINGTON – According to a senior government official, as President Donald Trump implemented stern border enforcement policies. Nearly about 1,800 immigrant families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border from October 2016 through February 2018.
Previously, the only numbers provided by federal officials on family separations covered a single two-week period in May. The numbers are the first comprehensive disclosure by the administration of how many families have been affected by the policies.
The government official has agreed to speak only on one condition of anonymity, saying that he could not provide up-to-date statistics, but are acknowledged the about the number of separations had risen sharply in recent weeks.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official testified last month to Congress that between May 6 and May 19, 658 children were separated from 638 parents because of the stepped-up prosecutions. That brings the total of officially acknowledged separations to more than 2,400, though that does not include recent weeks or the period from March 1 to May 6.
In May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a ‘zero tolerance’ policy in which all those apprehended entering the United States illegally would be criminally charged, which generally leads to children being separated from their parents.
The bill specifically states that a minor cannot be removed from a parent or legal guardian “solely for the policy goal of deterring individuals from migrating to the United States.”
On Friday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with the 26 other Democrats and two independents introduced a bill that would put new limits on federal law enforcement’s ability to separate immigrant children from their families unless a court decides that would be best for the child.
Immigration and child advocates, Democratic lawmakers and the United Nations have all condemned the practice of separating families at the border, but the administration has defended its actions saying it is protecting children and making clear that illegal border crossers will be prosecuted regardless of their family circumstances.