Yet the intervening weeks have proven that confidence misplaced. According to The New York Times:
The family separations, part of an aggressive effort by the Trump administration to deter illegal immigration, have produced a chaotic scramble as officials now face political and judicial pressure to reunite families.
Records linking children to their parents have disappeared, and in some cases have been destroyed, according to two officials of the Department of Homeland Security, leaving the authorities struggling to identify connections between family members.
Just five days ago, Azar’s department “sent out a plea to federal public health workers for help with an exhaustive manual search of records.”
What happened to those basic keystrokes? Azar, in subsequent days, has offered, “It takes time to reorient the effort to reconcile the different data sets the government has to respond to a new order to reunify minors with their parents.”
Public contrition may have been too much to expect from this preternaturally defensive White House, but the administration has gone a step further than that—blaming the judicial branch and its deadlines, rather than accepting the fact that this entire ordeal is, in fact, self-created.“HHS is executing on our mission even with the constraints handed down by the courts,” Azar told reporters last week, characterizing the judge’s time frame for reunification as “extreme.”
This sense of injury has been accompanied by an eye-blinkingly audacious assessment of the administration’s efforts. On Monday, officials told the press that the agencies had “worked tirelessly” to reunite children, and that the results so far results were “highly encouraging.” Another email celebrated the fact that, thanks to agency efforts, “the mission will be accomplished,” and added, “Everyone should feel satisfied that we are doing our part to reunify the children with their families.”
“Satisfaction” seems a questionable conclusion for efforts that were forced upon this administration—and that have thus far remained inadequate as they pertain to the end goal: giving all the children back to their parents. At present count, 12 of the youngest migrant children have parents who have already been deported. “The government hasn’t even tried to find those parents yet,” Gelernt told me.
Twelve is not an extraordinary number — but the number of parents who have already been deported is almost sure to rise exponentially when federal agencies begin to grapple with the 2,000-plus children it must reunite with families in the next two weeks. Wendy Young, the president of Kids in Need of Defense, which advocates on behalf of migrant children, explained that parents who have already left the country pose a particular challenge.
“It’s extremely difficult,” she said. “Once a parent is back home, first we have to connect with the parent through an NGO or a consulate. Trying to find where they are is extremely difficult: They fear for their lives and are in even greater danger once they return, so they tend to go underground. Plus there are tech and communications problems down there. And accessing a system in the U.S. to find out where the child is—we have very little information to do that. This is extraordinarily difficult to do.”