A draft memo, which has been leaked to the office of Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, shows that the Trump administration supposedly did plan to separate immigrant families in order to try and deter other asylum seekers.
The bombshell document, which was handed to the office of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley by an anonymous whistleblower, was titled “Policy Options to Respond to Border Surge of Illegal Immigration,” according to the Daily Mail. It was drafted in December 2017 and was reportedly meant to be the Trump administration’s official policy on the issue of family separation.
The plan outlined in the document was to place illegal immigrants into separate family units. Those aged 18 years and over would be put in adult detention centers while minors would be handed over to HHS (Health and Human Services) and classified as “unaccompanied alien children.”
The document also reveals plans to deny these minors their right to an asylum hearing in front of an immigration judge in order to get them deported faster.
The draft report states that, “If CBP issues an ER [expedited removal] for the entire family unit, places the parents in the custody of the U.S. Marshal, and then places the minors with HHS, it would seem that DHS (Department of Homeland Security) could work with HHS to actually repatriate [deport] the minors then.”
The document then adds, “It would take coordination with the home countries, of course, but that doesn’t seem like too much of a cost to pay compared to the status quo.”
One detail which is conspicuous in its absence from the draft report is any plan on how families would be reunited again. There is no reference to how or when families would be brought back together at any point in the document.
The Trump administration has always denied that family separation was a formal policy. In June 2017, Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said on Twitter that the administration did “not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”
But in April 2018, President Trump announced his “zero-tolerance” policy which ABC has reported led to 2,737 children being separated from their parents. However, it is thought that thousands more may have suffered a similar fate before “zero-tolerance” was even introduced.
The Inspector of Health and Human Services has said that they do not know the total number of children who may have been affected by the family separation policy.
President Trump revoked his “zero tolerance” policy with an executive order issued in June 2018. The policy of deporting minors separately from their parents did not become government policy in the end.