Cummings Issues Statement on IG Report on Trump Administration Child Separation Policy

Jan 17, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 17, 2019)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement in response to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General on the Trump Administration’s immigrant child separation policy:

“We do not know—and may never know—the full extent of the harm inflicted by the Trump Administration on these immigrant children over the last two years.  According to this new report, the Trump Administration may have separated ‘thousands’ more children from their families than previously known. In fact, the Administration has no idea how many children were separated from their parents, and the efforts to reunify them are hindered by an ‘absence’ of a system to track these families.  I have been seeking information that would help reunify these children since last year, but the Trump Administration refuses to comply.  As Chairman, I will do everything in my power to obtain the documents I’ve requested to ensure the Administration is held accountable for this callous and immoral policy.”

Below are highlights from the new report:

  • HHS officials “observed a significant increase in the number and proportion of separated children (i.e., children separated from their parent or legal guardian by DHS) relative to other [unaccompanied minors]” as early as summer 2017, nearly a year before the Trump Administration announced its “zero-tolerance” policy in April 2018.


  • According to tracking data, “separated children rose from approximately 0.3 percent of all UAC intakes in late 2016 to 3.6 percent by August 2017”—a tenfold increase.


  • Efforts to reunify children in the Ms. L v. ICE lawsuit were hindered by “the absence of an existing, integrated HHS-DHS system to identify and track separated families.”


  • Regarding children not covered by the Ms. L case:  “There is even less visibility for separated children who fall outside the court case.  The Court did not require HHS to determine the number, identity, or status of an estimated thousands of children whom DHS separated during an influx that began in 2017 and whom ORR released prior to Ms. L v. ICE.”


  • Child separations have continued following that court order, and “efforts to identify and assess more recent separations may be hampered by incomplete information.”


  • The report concludes:  “The total number and current status of all children separated from their parents or guardians by DHS and referred to ORR’s care is unknown.”   

This report sheds further light on October 2018 reports from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, which found that the Trump Administration had no plans to track separated children, made false statements about the ability to track these children, and did not plan for higher numbers of children in HHS custody despite HHS officials raising alarms for more than a year.

In addition to work by the HHS Inspector General, there are ongoing reviews by both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice Inspectors General, requested by Cummings and other top Democrats on June 29, 2018.  Unfortunately, DHS and DOJ Inspectors General operations are severely hindered by the government shutdown.

Cummings has also repeatedly sought information and documents from the Administration on separated children, most recently in a December 19, 2018, letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II.  To date, no agency has complied with these requests.

Click here to read today’s Inspector General report.

116th Congress