Watchdog confirms botched family reunifications kept migrant children waiting in vans overnight

NBC News reported that in July 2018, migrant children were left waiting, sometimes overnight, in the parking lot of a Texas ICE detention facility.
Image: Port Isabel Detention Center
Vehicles leave the Port Isabel Detention Center, which holds detainees of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in Los Fresnos, Texas on June 26, 2018.David J. Phillip / AP file
By Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff

WASHINGTON — A recent report from the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed NBC News reporting that migrant children who had been separated from their parents were left waiting in vans for hours, in some cases overnight, while waiting to be reunited.

NBC News previously reported that in July 2018, children were left waiting in the parking lot of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Port Isabel, Texas, due to an breakdown in logistics and communication between ICE and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which was responsible for the separated migrant children.

The children were among the more than 2,800 children ordered by a federal judge to be reunified with their parents after they were separated by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy in May and June 2018.

The inspector general's report, published August 19, was initiated after two congressional requests followed the NBC News report.

The inspector general said 73 migrant children were left waiting between 10 and 41 hours before they were reunited with their parents, who were being held inside the Port Isabel facility. The report attributed the wait times to ICE and the HHS Office of Refugee Settlement having “fundamentally different understandings about the timing and pace of reunifications.”

In a response to the inspector general, ICE said “it remains committed to ensuring the appropriate care of all individuals in its custody.”