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Berman: Not a rounding error, they're children

CNN's John Berman blasts the Trump administration for its lack of transparency on exactly how many children, who were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border, are in government custody.

Posted: Jul 8, 2018 2:08 PM
Updated: Jul 8, 2018 2:25 PM

Do you know where the children are?

For the United States, the answer to that question is still a remarkable "no." The Trump administration is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis that it created. And it has exacerbated the tragedy by failing to implement, with urgency, well understood crisis management skills to solve the problem.

There is no reason that the reunification of children who were separated by US authorities from their parents should be so chaotic.

Just a day after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar confidently notified the public that the administration would satisfy a court's order to reunite all children younger than 5 by a July 10 deadline, the government reversed course and asked the court for an extension. Sarah Fabian, an attorney for the Justice Department, admitted that the administration still does not know where the parents of nearly 20% of the children are because those parents were released from ICE custody.

In other words, the administration would not be able to satisfy the judicial order. These numbers do not include reunification of "older" (older than 5) children, which is set for July 26. The lack of any paperwork or accounting means the government is resorting to DNA testing to be able to match these families. And the numbers are all over the place: The government still does not have an exact number of parents or children who remain separated. It has estimated that number to be about 3,000.

There are no excuses. Even assuming that the removal policy was sound public policy -- and it was not -- it simply defies logic that our own government would separate children from their families with no serious effort at an accounting and tracking system to be able to reunite them at some stage.

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised. After all, the Trump administration, through Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, originally denied even doing it, then balked at the notion that they could stop it. Donald Trump eventually caved to public pressure with an executive order that was so weak it took a court to step in to demand reunification. Was the thought that if the policy wasn't acknowledged these kids would simply -- what, exactly? Go away?

Even worse, the reunification process has lacked the urgency and organization that is required of any crisis. Family reunification is a well understood consequence of any disaster; governments spend considerable effort in training and planning procedures (such as organizing non-governmental agencies, churches and schools to assist, creating databases, and picture galleries) in focusing on how to bring children and families back together should they be separated by an event.

Family unification is always a priority. After all, disasters happen all the time, and while this one was planned and executed by the government, our efforts would have been better served by implementing disaster management lessons to try to bring them together.

What would that take? Well, let's start with the obvious. This is the United States. Unlike Haiti after an earthquake, or Thailand after a tsunami, the basic infrastructure here works: phones, electricity, cameras and computers. The pool of children separated is relatively small compared to many other disasters, such as the Haiti earthquake or Thailand's tsunami; the number of facilities holding these children should be known with some certitude.

What's lacking then, is a focus by the very White House that got us to this moment.

As reported, the reunification has been stymied by the number of agencies and state and local stakeholders involved in the effort. HHS has borne the brunt of the reunification demands since the children are in their custody. But, multiple players also have strong equities and insights.

DHS, whose agencies forcibly removed these children, has been accused of destroying some of the data that links parents to their children, though DHS has denied this claim. There is also the Department of Justice, which oversees the immigration courts; the Department of Defense, which has been preparing to hold families; the State Department, which is getting queries from nations where the children came from; state and local governments where the facilities reside; and private sector contractors who own and manage where these kids are held.

What we are missing here is leadership. A point person, an incident commander, a czar, someone in the White House who can manage these various entities and claims and force movement and solution. The White House has remained relatively quiet on this front; the President's homeland security adviser has been notably absent when it comes down to the reunification effort.

And so the consequence, outside the mere fact that these children are waiting in limbo, has been a second kind of disaster. It means that what should have been a process to reunite these kids has been too slow; data and numbers have been all over the place, and therefore unreliable; and courts have had to get involved to force the government to do what it could have done on its own.

It is clear now that the Trump administration never processed the consequences of its policy and then never processed the urgency of finding a solution. The reason? Others can fill in the blanks: cruelty as a public policy, racism, ignorance, chaos as a means of management, or simply bad execution.

Tuesday, the Trump administration is supposed to reunite children younger than 5 with their parents. It will miss that deadline for some of these kids. That we are at this stage defies any appropriate adjectives. Try harder.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115088

Reported Deaths: 3255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23129377
Mobile16849315
Tuscaloosa10296140
Montgomery10197197
Madison928096
Shelby733863
Baldwin663769
Lee653465
Calhoun456761
Marshall438150
Etowah426551
Houston414834
Morgan412035
DeKalb338829
Elmore320053
St. Clair292542
Limestone284230
Walker277292
Talladega265335
Cullman244024
Lauderdale226242
Jackson214915
Franklin205231
Autauga204831
Colbert200532
Russell19443
Blount192525
Chilton186932
Dallas186527
Coffee176311
Dale175151
Covington174029
Escambia172530
Chambers135044
Clarke134317
Pike133513
Tallapoosa131787
Marion107629
Barbour10319
Marengo100822
Butler100740
Winston92213
Geneva9007
Lawrence85032
Pickens84718
Bibb82814
Randolph82316
Hale76730
Washington74412
Clay74112
Cherokee73314
Lowndes70928
Henry7086
Bullock64817
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60630
Perry5896
Fayette57413
Wilcox56712
Conecuh56113
Cleburne5568
Macon53420
Lamar4905
Sumter47221
Choctaw39012
Greene34216
Coosa2033
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