May 2, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Trump officials had "no way" to link separated migrant families, emails show

The southern border wall at Friendship park in San Ysidro, California.

A fence at the southern border wall in San Ysidro, California. File photo: Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

Trump administration officials said they didn't have enough data to reunite most migrant families separated at the border, emails the House Judiciary Committee provided to NBC News show.

Details: In the emails, a Health and Human Services official admits "we do not have any linkages from parents to [children], save for a handful [60]." The exchanges with a senior official at Immigration and Customs Enforcement are dated June 23, 2018 — the day the Trump administration said it would reunite migrant families via a central database.

We have a list of parent alien numbers but no way to link them to children."
— HHS official

Why it matters: The experience led to a months-long effort to reunite thousands of families separated under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, per NBC News. The emailed comments fit with the findings of a September report by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General.

What they're saying: DHS told NBC the department and HHS entered data gathered on parents into spreadsheets, which was added to a SharePoint site HHS used that had existing information about unaccompanied children.

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