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Images of young boys behind chainlink fences and a report that the government lost track of almost 1,500 minors have sparked outrage over the U.S.'s treatment of child immigrants, but some criticism has missed the mark.

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, fiscal years 2012-16, 2017, and 2018; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Between the lines: There are three unrelated concerns. But only one — the separation of children from their parents — is a trend that began with the Trump administration’s immigration agenda.

1. Separating of children from their parents

The Trump administration announced that they would begin prosecuting anyone who crosses the U.S. border illegally as part of Attorney General Jeff Sessions "zero-tolerance" policy. This will lead to more children being separated from the parents who will face prosecution. Sessions has said, "If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally."

2. 1,500 lost children

There have been reports that Health and Human Services lost track of almost 1,500 children who crossed the border as unaccompanied minors. After being apprehended by Customs and Border Patrol, these 0-17 year olds who cross into the U.S. without their parents are sent to HHS, which places them, most often, with family already in the U.S.

  • Why it matters: 30 days after placing a child with a "sponsor," HHS calls the sponsor. There have been 1,475 cases in which the sponsor did not answer that phone call, HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan told Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday, arguing that it does not mean those children are "lost."
  • Yes, but: In 2014, there were some cases of children accidentally being placed in human trafficking situations; a Senate report found 6 children who were forced to work long hours on an egg farm.

In a call with reporters on Tuesday morning, DHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffmann and HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary Stephen Wagner said the two agencies are working to set up a system that would better ensure the safety of children placed with sponsors, which would include fingerprint tracking of sponsors.

3. Prison-like child immigrant detention centers

This image is from 2014, when the Obama administration faced a surge of unaccompanied minors and family units from Central America and created short term detention centers to house them. (Read more about how Trump inherited a surge in Central American asylum seekers.)

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Yes, but: Children are still often temporarily detained when they cross the border unaccompanied and families are most often sent to three facilities: the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas, and Berks Family Residential Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania, which have had reputations of poor, prison-like conditions, according to the American Immigration Council.

Go deeper

Updated 1 min ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat — Study: Trump campaign rallies likely led to over 700 COVID-related deaths.
  2. World: Boris Johnson announces month-long lockdown in England — Greece tightens coronavirus restrictions as Europe cases spike — Austria reimposes coronavirus lockdowns amid surge of infections.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Technology: Fully at-home rapid COVID test to move forward.
  5. States: New York rolls out new testing requirements for visitors.

North Carolina police pepper-spray protesters marching to the polls

Officers in North Carolina used pepper spray on protesters and arrested eight people at a get-out-the-vote rally at Alamance County’s courthouse Saturday during the final day of early voting, the City of Graham Police Department confirmed.

Driving the news: The peaceful "I Am Change" march to the polls was organized by Rev. Greg Drumwright, from the Citadel Church in Greensboro, N.C., and included a minute's silence for George Floyd. Melanie Mitchell told the News & Observer her daughters, age 5 and 11, were among those pepper-sprayed by police soon after.

6 hours ago - Health

Boris Johnson announces month-long COVID-19 lockdown in England

Prime Minsiter Boris Johnson. Photo: NurPhoto / Getty Images

A new national lockdown will be imposed in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Saturday, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country topped 1 million.

Details: Starting Thursday, people in England must stay at home, and bars and restaurants will close, except for takeout and deliveries. All non-essential retail will also be shuttered. Different households will be banned from mixing indoors. International travel, unless for business purposes, will be banned. The new measures will last through at least December 2.

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