What We’re Seeking:
- Records from multiple agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to determine if Secretary Nielsen deliberately misled Congress in her April 11, 2018 testimony about the family separation policy.
- Records from DHS, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding the “zero tolerance” policy, including memos sent to local field offices about how to implement the policy.
- Records from DHS, CBP, ICE, USCIS, and HHS regarding Senator Jeff Merkley’s attempt to visit a detention facility.
- Records from DHS, CBP, ICE, USCIS, and DOJ of communications with anti-immigrant groups or activists.
- Records from CBP regarding family separations at the San Ysidro and Hidalgo ports of entry.
- Records from HHS containing Capacity Update Report spreadsheets.
- Records of multiple agencies’ communications with private prison companies and contractors that have been involved in detaining separated children.
In May 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the United States would adopt a “zero tolerance” policy of separating parents and children arrested while attempting to enter the country illegally.
“If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions told a group of law enforcement officials at an event in Arizona.
Less than a month earlier, Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen testified to the House Appropriations Committee that the department’s policy was to keep families “together as long as operationally possible” and that “when we separate we separate because the law tells us to.”
As of mid-June 2018, the federal government had separated and detained more than 2,000 children, housing many of them in chain-link cages in temporary facilities set up along the border.
American Oversight is seeking a broad range of records from the key agencies involved in the Trump administration’s policy of separating and detaining children of immigrants arrested at the border.