Last Sunday, November 25, the CBS news program, 60 Minutes, reported on children separated at the border. What the 60 Minutes segment revealed was what some critics had suspected; they had been separating children from their families much earlier than 2018. The story also documented through interviews with officials from within the government some of the horrific practices taking place through child separation.
According to a report based on a Homeland Security internal investigation, in some instances at a border station they “made no effort to identify and reunite families prior to [their] removal [from the United States].” In other words, there were at least hundreds of cases in which children were separated from their parents without an accurate database or record keeping that would allow them to identify a child as being with a particular parent or set of parents. The investigation cited was a report by the Department’s internal watchdog, the DHS Inspector General. That IG report indicated that DHS was “not fully prepared” and “struggled to provide accurate, complete, reliable data on family separations…” According to 60 Minutes, “The report found that incompatible computer systems erased data that connected children with their families.”
As part of the segment CBS interviewed two former DHS employees, Dr Pam McPherson, Psychiatrist and Internist Dr. Scott Allen. Both worked for Homeland Security, inspecting government detention facilities. They had been concerned about the poor-quality health care for a limited number of children in custody before the Trump Administration began implementing child separation. Dr. McPherson said, “I was having trouble sleeping at night,” Dr. Scott Allen said:
“There was an episode where children in a mass immunization program were immunized with the wrong dose, adult dose instead of child dose, because the providers at the facility weren’t used to working with children and didn’t recognize some very common color coding that would denote adult versus pediatric vaccines.”
According to CBS, “They’d been writing reports of poor pediatric care in federal custody for four years when they heard that thousands more children were going to be cared for by the government, some of them in tent cities.”
CBS obtained a previously-released Homeland Security order to arrest and detain all adults who crossed illegally to seek asylum, but this copy was not censored by the Administration. According to 60 Minutes:
“The document reveals that child separation began nine months earlier than the Administration acknowledged. There was a pilot program in the busy “El Paso sector” from “July to November 2017”. We don’t know how many children were taken in those five months. The censored part of the memo explains a reason for the policy — deterrence — as it “will have the greatest impact on current flows” [of immigrants.].”
The report also included comments by previous immigration officials from the Obama Administration who pointed out that such deterrence is not effective. Not when someone has come to your house or community and threatened to kill your child.