/Government watchdog finds border officials frequently jailed separated kids beyond legal time limit

Government watchdog finds border officials frequently jailed separated kids beyond legal time limit

Children take part in a protest against US immigration policies outside the US embassy in Mexico City on June 21, 2018. - US lawmakers were poised to vote Thursday on long-term Republican-sponsored fixes to immigration amid a firestorm over family separations on the US-Mexico border. (Photo by Pedro PARDO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)

The Department of Homeland Security inspector general states in a newly released report that Customs and Border Protection officials frequently kept separated migrant children jailed beyond a 72-hour limit set in place by law, holding nearly 200 kids for twice that amount, and some for as long as ten days or more.

By law, children are supposed to be transferred from CBP to Office of Refugee Resettlement custody within three days at the most. But the DHS inspector general said in a report released last week that border officials commonly violated this during the implementation of the Trump administration’s barbaric “zero tolerance” policy, which resulted in the state-sanctioned kidnapping of nearly 3,000 children at the southern border.

“During Zero Tolerance,” the inspector general said, “we found 39 percent of separated children were held beyond 72 hours, including 192 children who remained in CBP facilities for more than 6 days—twice the time limit allowed.” Some children were jailed for as long as 10 days, and some even longer. This crisis, the inspector general’s report states, was of the administration’s own doing, because as it was stealing more and more kids, less space was becoming available.

“By May 10, 2018, only five days after Zero Tolerance implementation, ORR reached 87 percent occupancy,” the report stated. “As placement space within ORR’s facilities decreased, CBP maintained custody of children for longer periods. On May 29, 2018, CBP’s average custody period for children separated from parents exceeded the 72-hour threshold for the first time during Zero Tolerance.” 

Advocates have long been decrying the inhumane and barbaric treatment of children in U.S. custody. This past June, a team of lawyers inspecting a Border Patrol facility near El Paso, Texas, encountered dozens of sick kids and children forced to take care of other children. Three girls said they’d been caring for a 2-year-old boy “who had wet his pants and no diaper and was wearing a mucus-smeared shirt when the legal team encountered him.” Others said they’d gone weeks without being able to take a bath or even change their clothes.

The family separation policy has been a crime against humanity—and a truly frightening thought is trying to imagine how much worse it could have gotten. As we reported last week, officials knew they had no system in place to track who was being stolen from who, yet they still planned to kidnap as many as 26,000 kids under the policy. They were ultimately blocked from continuing with that plan due to a federal judge’s order.