For weeks, reporters have worked to pin down details of how the government separated and now is attempting to reunite immigrant families. Many repeated questions have been unanswered, including any inquiry about the ages of the children.
At least initially, the Department of Health and Human Services did provide one key piece of data: the number of children in government care who were separated from parents. Two weeks ago, that figure was 2,053 kids. One week ago, it was 2,047.
But this week, when the NewsHour asked about the current number of separated children, as well their ages, two different staff members received an identical HHS response which did not contain any of those numbers. It seems to indicate that the agency will no longer provide those figures, due to “expanded parameters” from a temporary court ruling issued last week. It is not clear what that means, and we asked in a follow-up email.
As we wait for answers, it seemed worthwhile to post the full response from HHS.
Email from HHS to the NewsHour, July 2. 3:22 p.m.
“On background, as we evaluate the impact of the District Court ruling, and given the constantly changing number of UAC in our care (every day minors are referred to our care and released from our care to parents, close relatives or suitable sponsors), we are providing the approximate number of total UAC in the care of HHS-funded grantees. While we understand the interest in detailed breakdowns of this information, our mission has been and remains to provide every minor transferred to HHS, regardless of the circumstances, with quality and age-appropriate care and a speedy and safe release to a sponsor. Currently, there are more than 11,800 minors in our care.
Also, for your awareness on the data, here is some additional background:
- The District Court injunction late Monday evening has expanded the parameters of previously publicly reported data regarding the circumstances of how a UAC in our database was referred to HHS custody. We are working with our partners at DHS (ICE/CBP) to do a thorough review, cross checking multiple datasets among multiple agencies.
- HHS is aware of every child in our funded facilities care, their location and their identity. The sub-classification and categorization of the circumstances of their referral to the UAC program is what is currently being audited and validated.
- Our audit of the sub-classification of total UAC has no operational impact on individual child’s care. Our mission has been and remains to provide every minor transferred to HHS, regardless of the circumstances, with quality and age-appropriate care and a speedy and safe release to a sponsor.
- This is a dynamic and complex dataset that changes day by day and sometimes hour by hour and will never be the same over time. Total numbers and therefore any sub-classification of those numbers will go up and down as our understanding of the referral circumstances, classification and organization of the data changes.
- We share the goal of accurate, detailed breakdowns of this information including by those UAC who were separated from a parent or legal guardian after border crossing. Any updated information that may result from our ongoing audit does not in any way impact our commitment to the quality services and care we are providing to these children every day.
- Our mission has been and remains to provide every minor transferred to HHS, regardless of the circumstances, with quality and age-appropriate care and a speedy and safe release to a sponsor.
Additionally, please see the fact sheet we recently released on the process for reunification below:
Hope this helps, thanks!”