OIG Report: DOJ Aware of Immigrant Family Separation

OIG reveals that the Trump administration knowingly separated immigrant families

Trump’s zero tolerance policy

In an attempt to curb illegal immigration at the southern border of the US, the Trump administration adopted a so-called “zero tolerance policy.” Broadly speaking, this policy states that immigrants detained while trying to cross the borders without documentation must face criminal prosecution for violating local immigration law, regardless of whether they need international protection or not.

However, border forces also detain many families with minors. Normally, immigrant families with children are taken to Family Centers; But, because federal entities cannot detain minors, Trump’s zero tolerance policy led to the separation of approximately 3,000 children from their parents, who had to face legal charges under this rule.

This policy did not last long due to the timely reaction of activist groups, immigration attorneys and immigrant rights advocates, who filed multiple legal complaints against the Trump administration for implementing this policy that encourages and increases the separation of immigrant families and affects the physical and psychological development of minors.

Adding to that, the controversy grew even more when the American population found out that the Trump administration conducted a secret pilot program in 2017 to test the effectiveness of the zero tolerance policy. During that pilot program, more than 1000 children were separated from their families and 666 have not been able to find their relatives after more than 3 years.

OIG reveals that the Trump administration knowingly separated immigrant families

Due to multiple legal proceedings against the zero tolerance policy, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a comprehensive investigation regarding the role and responsibility of federal entities, under the Trump administration, in the separation of immigrant families and the implementation of this policy.

Entities involved are:

  • DHS (Department of Homeland Security).
  • DOJ (Department of Justice).
  • USAO (U S Attorney’s Office).
  • HHS (Department of Health and Human Services).
  • USMS (US Marshals Service).

On Thursday, January 14, 2021, the OIG released the results of the investigation, which show that officials leading these federal entities (appointed by the Trump administration) did not properly follow up nor organize requirements to implement a policy as delicate as this one.

In fact, the OIG openly states: “The Department (DOJ) Did Not Effectively Plan for or Coordinate with the USAOs, the USMS, DHS, or HHS About the Impact that Family Unit Adult Prosecutions Under the Zero Tolerance Policy Would Have on Children, Despite Senior Leaders’ Awareness that It Would Result in the Separation of Children.”

The investigation reveals that DOJ officials knew in advance potential repercussions of the zero tolerance policy, but instead of trying to improve the federal government’s approach to immigration, they proceeded with the implementation of this policy knowing that it would affect the lives of hundreds of minors.

As a result of the investigation, the OIG asked the entities involved in this legal scandal to present evidence of the actions taken to reverse damages caused by the zero tolerance policy and their contribution to reuniting separated immigrant families. The deadline to complete this task is May 6, 2021.

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