More than a year after the Trump administration quietly began a program of separating migrant children from their families along the U.S.-Mexico border, the full number of people impacted remains unclear. According to a new report, however, the government’s own data indicates that the campaign was far more expansive — and far more destructive — than previously acknowledged.
Figures provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection detail the separation of 6,022 “family units” from April 19, 2018 to August 15, 2018, according to a report published by Amnesty International on Thursday. Noting that the term “family unit” has varying applications in the U.S. immigration enforcement world — sometimes referring to individuals in a family, and at other times referring to family groups containing multiple people — Amnesty observes that even on the low end, the figure reflects the largest total ever disclosed by the border enforcement agency in the context of the family separation crisis.
Using available statistics from the last two years, Amnesty further reports that in 2017 and 2018, the Trump administration appears to have separated approximately 8,000 “family units” along the border. Even if half of the people referred to in that figure were parents, the remaining 4,000 children would dwarf the total number of kids commonly reported to have been impacted by the “zero tolerance” campaign — that total tends to hover between 2,500 to 3,000.
The numbers are admittedly murky, said Brian Griffey, the author of the Amnesty report. But that’s because the agency that provided them — CBP — refused to provide any clarification as to what, exactly, they reflected. Conversations with the border enforcement agency continued into last week, Griffey told The Intercept in an interview