The Trump administration’s heartless policy of separating migrant children from their parents after crossing the border may have been even more widespread—and may have begun much earlier—than previously reported. According to a federal audit released Thursday morning, thousands more migrant children were taken from their parents than the government previously acknowledged, and the separations began months before the policy was announced.
“How many more children were separated is unknown, by us and HHS” because of failures to track families as they were being separated, an investigator with the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general’s office told reporters Thursday morning, Politico reports.
While the so-called “zero tolerance” policy was announced by then Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May 2018, the audit reveals that the first child was taken from parents back in 2017 as a trial for further rolling out the vicious policy, which violates the UN’s guidelines for human rights at international borders.
Per Politico, the inspector general’s office has more self-analyses lined up, including reports investigating how the separated children were housed, who cared for them, the effects on the children’s health, and the administration’s approach to reunifying families. While the administration has reversed its policy, as of December, The Guardian estimated that some 15,000 children were still being held in DHS detention camps and two children have died in DHS custody.