Watchdog to investigate DHS family separations in immigration custody

The Department of Homeland Security watchdog will investigate whether the Trump administration is im...

Posted: Apr 17, 2018 9:16 AM
Updated: Apr 17, 2018 9:16 AM

The Department of Homeland Security watchdog will investigate whether the Trump administration is improperly separating families in immigration custody, according to a letter the department's inspector general sent to the office of Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.

The inspector general will look into whether the agency is separating the children of asylum seekers from their parents, the letter says.

The review comes after Durbin led a coalition of Democrats in requesting the IG look into the matter after reports that DHS was separating children from their parents in immigration custody. While there have been specific reported incidents, it has been unclear if it is a widespread practice.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified last week before Congress that the department only separates adults from children in custody "in the interest of the child" -- for instance, if there's a suspicion of possible human trafficking or if they are unable to confirm the child is actually traveling with his or her parents or legal guardians.

She did, however, admit that in the case of a Congolese woman who was separated from her young daughter for months, which has spurred a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, that the process of verifying they were in fact family "took too long."

After the lawsuit was filed, that mother and her daughter were reunited and a DNA test did confirm their relationship.

The letter from acting Homeland Security Inspector General John V. Kelly, which was provided to CNN, said his office has determined it will "conduct a review of this matter" and requested a follow-up meeting to discuss it further.

The issue of family units has been a source of difficulty for the department for years. A court ruling has held that children cannot be detained in what are essentially immigration jails for longer than three weeks, and the Obama administration thus issued guidance that family units would be released from custody together.

The Trump administration has decried this court ruling as a "loophole" that allows immigrants who have cleared the initial screening to pursue asylum protections in the US to live in the country for potentially years as their case works its way through the court system.

In a statement, DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton said the department has no policy of separating families "for deterrence purposes" but does follow laws protecting the interests of children at the border.

"Occasionally this results in separating children from an adult they are traveling with if we cannot ascertain the parental relationship or if we think the child is otherwise in danger," Houlton said. "Unfortunately, we have seen many instances where human traffickers have used children to cross the border to gain illegal entry to our country as they know they are unlikely to be detained. This is one of the very loopholes we would like to see Congress end in order to gain operational control of our border."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 604184

Reported Deaths: 7620
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1248631774
Ramsey52480895
Dakota46804470
Anoka42746458
Washington27416291
Stearns22552224
St. Louis18137312
Scott17548135
Wright16370149
Olmsted13391102
Sherburne1201295
Carver1066448
Clay825892
Rice8196110
Blue Earth762543
Crow Wing681594
Kandiyohi667885
Chisago619752
Otter Tail585884
Benton582998
Goodhue483874
Douglas475381
Mower470733
Winona461251
Itasca459263
Isanti439964
McLeod430361
Morrison424662
Nobles407950
Beltrami407561
Steele397616
Polk389072
Becker386655
Lyon363853
Carlton352756
Freeborn346932
Pine335023
Nicollet331045
Mille Lacs311654
Brown307840
Le Sueur297226
Cass286032
Todd285632
Meeker263142
Waseca238023
Martin235332
Roseau211021
Wabasha20783
Hubbard196441
Dodge18783
Renville182446
Redwood176338
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena162823
Fillmore157410
Faribault154419
Chippewa153938
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138837
Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122612
Pipestone116726
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11296
Murray107010
Swift106918
Koochiching95217
Stevens92411
Clearwater89016
Marshall88817
Wilkin83213
Lake83120
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5938
Lincoln5843
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48293
Red Lake4017
Traverse3775
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 370914

Reported Deaths: 6048
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58232640
Linn21204339
Scott20306247
Black Hawk16119312
Woodbury15238230
Johnson1461585
Dubuque13506211
Dallas1128999
Pottawattamie11223174
Story1071448
Warren583991
Clinton561493
Cerro Gordo553593
Sioux517074
Webster515494
Muscatine4880106
Marshall486676
Des Moines467271
Wapello4337122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421172
Plymouth402981
Lee382356
Marion366076
Jones300957
Henry294637
Bremer288261
Carroll286852
Crawford268540
Boone268434
Benton259655
Washington256751
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232351
Jackson225242
Clay216627
Kossuth216166
Tama211871
Delaware210943
Winneshiek198535
Page194522
Buchanan193733
Cedar192223
Hardin187444
Fayette186543
Wright185940
Hamilton181851
Harrison179973
Clayton171057
Butler166235
Madison164619
Mills163724
Floyd163342
Cherokee159338
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152652
Hancock150234
Iowa149824
Winnebago144531
Cass139255
Calhoun138913
Grundy137333
Emmet135841
Jefferson133435
Shelby131537
Sac130920
Union129935
Louisa129749
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124717
Franklin123323
Guthrie123232
Humboldt119626
Palo Alto113523
Howard104922
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96532
Monroe96330
Unassigned9560
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7598
Taylor66812
Fremont6269
Decatur6169
Van Buren56418
Ringgold56324
Wayne54423
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Adams3444
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