President chides Dems for blaming his administration for kids in cages

Pelosi hands

In a February 2017 report, Kolb cited ORR data indicating that in the first three months of fiscal year 2016, only 56 percent of unaccompanied children participated in follow-up calls with government officials within 30 days of their US placement.

Over the past several days, a heated public debate has raged over the administration's policy towards migrant children.

In the midst of backlash over a new "zero tolerance" policy on immigration enforced by the Justice Department, President Donald Trump has come under fire for measures to curb illegal immigration that separate parents from their children.

The almost four-year-old photographs were linked to reports that Homeland Security had lost track of almost 1,500 migrant children last year.

CNN reports that more than 40,000 immigrant kids were given homes, but now the government can't tell you where even 1,500 of them are.

A controversy erupted after Wagner testified in April before a Senate committee that the agency in 2016 conducted a limited "safety and well-being" call to around 7,600 children that had been in its care but was unable to locate around 1,500 children and their sponsors. Those challenges can be seen in immigration court statistics. And because many adult sponsors, including parents, are living in the country illegally, they may fear contact with federal officials.

HHS has made it a practice to make phone calls to check in on the minor's placement. Under previous protocol, parents and their children have been either detained or released together, pending asylum or immigration hearings. "So, if we do our duty and prosecute those cases, then children inevitably for a period of time might be in different conditions". But if an administration opts to impose harsh criminal charges against an adult for crossing the border illegally, their children would be separated from them as a result.

"If somebody is unwilling to claim their child from custody because they're concerned about their own immigration status, I think that, de facto, calls into question whether they're an adequate sponsor and whether we should be releasing a child to that person", said Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families at HHS. "With DHS' cooperation we will conduct a fingerprint-based background check on every sponsor". It's more accurate to say the government lost track of them, as Bharara put it.

This is what Trump and this administration do not understand about immigration. During those two months a total of about 8,400 unaccompanied minors were caught on the southwest border. During President Barack Obama's second term, the government prosecuted roughly 70,000 cases per year. It's a terrible thing where you have to break up families. "He had an open-door, open-arms policy toward them".

'It was Obama's policy of letting anybody go who had a kid with them that created the expectation that it would work, ' he said.

He is right about the misrepresentation, though it's not clear that many prominent Democrats jumped on this particular Twitter bandwagon. Liberal activists and others, including some from media outlets, tried to highlight the issue by tweeting photos of young people in steel cages that actually were taken during the Obama administration.

But there is no law requiring parents and children to be separated.

In a tweet Saturday, Trump portrayed the family-separation measures as a tactic to arm-twist his opponents.

For years, as unaccompanied minors arrived in the United States, border patrol or customs officials transferred them to the custody of HHS, which then placed them with a relative or sponsor. Miroff covers drug trafficking, border security and transnational crime on The Washington Post's National Security desk.

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