During a Tuesday call hosted by DHS and HHS, some major revelations about the Trump administration’s border separations came to light, including that the departments have no current plan to expand detention facilities or shelters in the belief that the “zero tolerance” policy will deter immigrants from making the journey.
“We expect that the new policy will result in a deterrence effect and we certainly hope parents stop bringing kids on this dangerous journey,” HHS spokesman Steve Wagner said.
According to CNN, the policy has not worked to deter immigrants from coming, as there has been a 5 percent uptick in those caught crossing the border since April, including an increase of unaccompanied children.
Pertaining to the lone children, Wagner revealed that he does not have statistics on how many children have been reunited with their parents or placed with sponsors.
“I don’t know how many separated kids have been placed with sponsors or reunited with their parents,” Wagner said. “I could look into it, this policy is relatively new, and we are still working through the experience of reuniting kids with their parents after adjudication.”
Many of the unaccompanied children are only classified as such after they get to the U.S. — if they did not enter the country at a point of entry, children are reclassified as “unaccompanied alien children” even if they came over the border with their parents.
“When a family comes into custody and if we’re going to prosecute, that is when we create unaccompanied alien children,” said a border patrol spokesperson who did not announce his name.
Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, there is no policy about what border patrol is supposed to do with very young children when they are first taken into custody apart from their parents, before they are transferred into the care of HHS.
“Discretion is given to field chiefs for application referrals for sensitive cases, and that includes adults with tender-aged children,” said Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings. “The chiefs can make a discretionary call.”
He said that border patrol usually considers “tender-aged” or “tender-headed” children as those under five years old.