American Oversight Demands Records of Trump Family Separation Policy

American Oversight Demands Release of Documents Detailing Trump Administration Detention of Thousands of Immigrant Children

Nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight today launched a broad investigation into the Trump administration’s policy of separating families and detaining children of immigrants arrested while attempting to enter the United States. American Oversight submitted 13 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking records from six Trump administration agencies regarding the implementation and impact of the “zero tolerance” policy and the separation of families.

“The Trump administration has deliberately separated over two thousand children from their families, and we’re going to expose the paper trail showing exactly how this barbaric policy was planned and executed from the top down,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “No matter how often Secretary Nielsen claims it isn’t happening or President Trump tries to shift blame, the truth about the Trump administration’s family separation policy is going to come out.”

The FOIAs demand the release of a wide range of documents about the family separation policy from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Several of the FOIAs target records that would demonstrate whether Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen deliberately misled Congress about the administration’s family separation policy when she testified before the House Appropriations Committee on April 11, 2018. FOIAs sent to DHS, DOJ, and ACF seek the release of emails with Nielsen and other senior officials regarding that testimony.

Another set of FOIAs seeks records from DHS, CBP, ICE, and USCIS regarding the “zero tolerance” policy, including memos sent to local field offices about how to implement the policy. Additional FOIAs ask for records of any coordination with anti-immigration groups; emails regarding specific incidents in which families were separated; and the response to Senator Jeff Merkley’s visit to a detention facility.

American Oversight plans to send further FOIAs in the coming weeks seeking records of contracts and communications with the private and non-profit entities that operate the facilities where immigrant children are detained after they have been separated from their families.

In the past 15 months, American Oversight has filed nearly 1,000 FOIA requests and over 50 lawsuits investigating misconduct or corruption in the Trump administration and has obtained and posted tens of thousands of pages of records. Previous investigations have uncovered documents including Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office renovation expenses, emails showing Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s son’s involvement in government business, and the security clearance application form showing that Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose his Russian contacts to government investigators.

Follow American Oversight’s investigation into the Trump administration’s family separation policy here.