DHS watchdog: Administration predicted 'zero tolerance' would separate 26K children

DHS watchdog: Administration predicted 'zero tolerance' would separate 26K children
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The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) internal watchdog found that the Trump administration predicted it would separate 26,000 children if its now-scrapped “zero tolerance” policy from last year had been allowed to continue. 

A report released Wednesday by the DHS Office of Inspector General found that officials at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency responsible for oversight and execution of the policy, estimated that a large number of migrant families would be split up in May 2018. President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE ultimately signed an executive order in June 2018 to end the policy amid an avalanche of criticism. 

The report also indicated that the administration lacked the technology to sufficiently track all of the separated children, leading it to have to revise an original estimate that 2,800 were separated to 3,014.

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However, CBP kept the implemented policy despite knowing it could not effectively track the 26,000 children and thus eventually reunify the families. 

“Because of these IT deficiencies, we could not confirm the total number of families DHS separated during the Zero Tolerance period,” the report said.

“Border Patrol agents adopted ad hoc techniques to work around the system limitations, but these techniques introduced data errors that further hindered ICE ERO officers’ ability to track migrant parents separated from their children. DHS was aware of these IT deficiencies prior to Zero Tolerance Policy implementation, but IT modifications implemented in preparation for the policy did not fully resolve the problems,” it said.

DHS ultimately improved its system to allow officials to record the separation and reunification of family members as well as the amount of time minors had spent in custody. However, the adjustments were not made until August 2018, after the policy had been scrapped.

"Under a normal operational cadence, we would have tweaked or adjusted DHS data systems, trained our officers, prepared our detention providers. But not one of these steps were taken," Andrew Lorenzen Straight, former ICE deputy assistant director for custody management, told NBC News.