Dec 7, 2018, 4:34 AM ET

8 kids left: The lingering aftermath of Trump's 'zero-tolerance' policy at the border

#

Eight kids left.

Interested in Immigration?

Add Immigration as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Immigration news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
Add Interest

That’s how many children the government says are waiting to be reunited with family members as a direct result of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision last April to prosecute every adult who crossed illegally at America’s southern border.

Zero tolerance” triggered an international outcry at the U.S.-Mexico border as more than 2,634 migrant children were separated from their parents in a matter of weeks and compounding an existing crisis involving several thousand "unaccompanied minors" already in U.S. custody.

President Donald Trump eventually relented, issuing an executive order in June ending the practice. Days later, a federal judge ordered the administration to reunite the families.

In the end, the vast majority of the kids -- 2,494 -- have been reunited with parents or sponsors, according to data provided by the Health and Human Services Department.

PHOTO: Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a press conference at the Department of Justice on Oct. 26, 2018 in Washington.Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a press conference at the Department of Justice on Oct. 26, 2018 in Washington.

Another 102 cases involved parents who said they didn’t want to be reunited. Another 30 kids separated at the border have parents deemed “unfit” or presenting a “danger” to the child.

That leaves eight kids who are eligible to be returned to their family after being separated at the border, the government told a federal judge in a Nov. 29 court filing.

The final efforts marks an end to one of the most controversial policies in modern U.S. immigration history. The debate though is hardly over, as Trump insists on funding border wall and has extended a military deployment at the border.

The Homeland Security Department declined to discuss pending litigation, but spokeswoman Katie Waldman said of general migration apprehensions: "We will enforce our laws to the maximum extent possible. Our country cannot afford unchecked, undemocratic mass migration policies written by activist judges."

Democrats say they plan to take up the issue of migrant detentions come January, when they assume control of the House. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a senior Democrat from Connecticut, called it "immoral" that any child remained separated from their families as a result of "zero tolerance."

"This is a tragedy of the president's own design," she told ABC News.

PHOTO: Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas.John Moore/Getty Images
Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas.

The U.S. still has some 14,000 migrant children in custody, the vast majority of whom are older kids and teens who opted to try to cross the border alone. They are held at facilities managed by the Health and Human Services Department and scattered across the country, including a tent city near Tornillo, Texas, which has come under the scrutiny of House Democrats.

And migrants continue to try to cross the border. On Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 51,856 people were arrested trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in November, compared to 51,001 in October.

The average number of adults in custody is at a record-setting 42,000, according to data provided by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"My frustration is that we haven't been getting to the root causes of migration for families who are looking for security and safety," said Rep.-elect Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who just won in the 16th District in Texas.

"What this administration is doing is trying to create this sense of fear and crisis so the president can feed his obsession of a border wall," she said.

PHOTO: U.S. Border Patrol agents take a father and son from Honduras into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border, June 12, 2018, near Mission, Texas.John Moore/Getty Images, FILE
U.S. Border Patrol agents take a father and son from Honduras into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border, June 12, 2018, near Mission, Texas.

Sessions’ "zero-tolerance" policy never explicitly ordered the separation of families. And families had been separated under previous administrations. But most of those cases would have been tied to other serious crimes. Trump’s policy was different because his administration considered the act of crossing the border illegally enough of a justification to detain the adult and put the child in protective custody.

Eight kids left.

That’s how many children the government says are waiting to be reunited with family members as a direct result of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision last April to prosecute every adult who crossed illegally at America’s southern border.

“Zero tolerance” triggered an international outcry at the U.S.-Mexico border as more than 2,634 migrant children were separated from their parents in a matter of weeks and compounding an existing crisis involving several thousand "unaccompanied minors" already in U.S. custody.

President Donald Trump eventually relented, issuing an executive order in June ending the practice. Days later, a federal judge ordered the administration to reunite the families.

In the end, the vast majority of the kids -- 2,494 -- have been reunited with parents or sponsors, according to data provided by the Health and Human Services Department.

Another 102 cases involved parents who said they didn’t want to be reunited. Another 30 kids separated at the border have parents deemed “unfit” or presenting a “danger” to the child.

That leaves eight kids who are eligible to be returned to their family after being separated at the border, the government told a federal judge in a Nov. 29 court filing.

The final efforts marks an end to one of the most controversial policies in modern U.S. immigration history. The debate though is hardly over, as Trump insists on funding border wall and has extended a military deployment at the border.

The Homeland Security Department declined to discuss pending litigation, but spokeswoman Katie Waldman said of general migration apprehensions: "We will enforce our laws to the maximum extent possible. Our country cannot afford unchecked, undemocratic mass migration policies written by activist judges."

Democrats say they plan to take up the issue of migrant detentions come January, when they assume control of the House. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a senior Democrat from Connecticut, called it "immoral" that any child remained separated from their families as a result of "zero tolerance."

"This is a tragedy of the president's own design," she told ABC News.

The U.S. still has some 14,000 migrant children in custody, the vast majority of whom are older kids and teens who opted to try to cross the border alone. They are held at facilities managed by the Health and Human Services Department and scattered across the country, including a tent city near Tornillo, Texas, which has come under the scrutiny of House Democrats.

And migrants continue to try to cross the border illegally. On Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 51,856 people were arrested between ports of entry on the southwest border in November, compared to 51,001 in October. Overall in November, CBP denied entry or arrested to 62,456 people on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The average number of adults in custody is at a record-setting 42,000, according to data provided by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The average number of adults in custody is at a record-setting 42,000, according to data provided by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"My frustration is that we haven't been getting to the root causes of migration for families who are looking for security and safety," said Rep.-elect Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who just won in the 16th District in Texas.

"What this administration is doing is trying to create this sense of fear and crisis so the president can feed his obsession of a border wall," she said.

Sessions’ "zero-tolerance" policy never explicitly ordered the separation of families. And families had been separated under previous administrations. But most of those cases would have been tied to other serious crimes. Trump’s policy was different because his administration considered the act of crossing the border illegally enough of a justification to detain the adult and put the child in protective custody.

Since zero-tolerance ended, the Trump administration has separated another 81 migrant children from their families at the border. But those cases appear primarily to be the result of specific circumstances, including the parent having a criminal history or known gang affiliation, putting that practice in line with previous administrations.

According to the Nov. 29 court filing, one of the eight children can't be reunited immediately because the parent is in custody inside the U.S. Another child is on track to be deported and reunited with family in his or her home country, although that reunion has been delayed due to "unique circumstances." In five cases, the government is waiting for official statements from the parents on whether they want to be reunited with their child. The remaining child is on track to be reunited with a parent who is inside the U.S.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which led the lawsuit against the government, is helping to orchestrate the reunifications.

ABC News' Quinn Owen contributed to this report.

News - 8 kids left: The lingering aftermath of Trump's 'zero-tolerance' policy at the border

RRelated Posts

CComments

  • Kate Taylor

    Companies, small businesses, and farmers hire illegals. Farmers hire them because Americans won't do the work. The others do it because they can pay them a lot less and they don't have to offer benefits. So, if this weren't the case, and illegals couldn't get work here, they wouldn't come here. What do you think the real solution is? The wall isn't it. Those companies that hire illegals should be fined, and that fine should be in an amount that makes it financially unsound for them to continue hiring illegals.

  • reality25

    Trump administration - "Zero tolerance for morality and ethics! Thumbs up to human rights abuses!"

    (His minions cheer and roar in the background).

  • Gypsy613

    Arrest, detain, prosecute and deport. Hire the judges and provide the infrastructure at the border. And yes, build the damn wall.

  • CatMom

    It's too bad we don't have 'zero tolerance' for violent crimes, like assault, rape, murder, and more heinous crimes.

  • JDC1

    102 cases are unresolved because the parents didn’t want to be reunited. Holy Geezus. Can u imagine just being abandoned like that? What kind of monster does that?

  • Andre Baumann

    If there was a wall, and they couldn't get in, there wouldn't be a issue.
    The real issue is why did the democratic party change their view of illegal immigrants. i.e. the Clintons and Obama, maybe you should research it. The more you know the less you can be ruled by the elites.

  • Time Immemorial

    Basic journalism in this country has gone way down in performance.....spell-checking and proof-reading is a thing of the past.

  • RededWhiteandBlue

    Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who just won in the 16th District in Texas.

    "What this administration is doing is trying to create this sense of
    fear and crisis so the president can feed his obsession of a border
    wall," she said.

    No need to instill fear, the enemy is here. MS13 is here. ISIS is here. What more evidence does she need?

  • Blaize Rage

    Fix the article, it is repeating itself.

  • gs12

    This issue wasn't created by us.

  • fmd160

    LOL!!! This story has repeat paragraphs. (Now watch them fix the story so my comment doesn't fit anymore) :)

  • logical

    Wow, I'm amazed there's only 8 of them left. Typically the government doesn't do things that quickly

  • MauiOhana808

    The reign of donnie will be ending soon!!!!
    Make America Happy Again!!!!
    Thank you Special Prosecutor and the Grand Jury!!!!
    Aloha :^D
    🎄😎

  • Mic123

    Love the headline, its all trumps fault.

    Did anyone do anything to change the law? If you don't want to be in trouble don't break the law, don't subject your kids to breaking our laws, come to america legally and this won't happen. Like many millions of other immigrants.

    The real problem is many past "leaders" have looked the other way and decided to allow this to continue.

  • TBC

    It's telling that the Trump administration was able to split up the families in no time at all, but when it came time to reunite them, they wrung their hands and stuttered out pleas for "more time."

  • CaptnBlynd

    "New government figures released Friday show that the U.S. Border Patrol arrested 51,856 individuals attempting to illegally cross the southern border in November. That's a 78 percent increase over the same period last year." NPR

    We cannot separate them and we cannot hold the children so we cannot hold the parents. All we can do now is try to keep them out. Military and barriers.

  • morty harenza

    Donnie's fanatics really believe he wants to stop illegal immigration while he and many other rich phony types hire illegals all the time. Great con game. Best way to make money!!