HHS Issues Statement on Ms. L, et al., Status Report Regarding Plan for Compliance for Remaining Class Members
The following statement can be attributed to HHS spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer:
In today’s filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, it is mentioned that HHS has identified 2,551 minors 5 to 17 years of age in the department’s custody who could potentially have been separated from a parent at the time of entry into the United States and therefore could potentially be eligible for reunification with a parent in DHS custody.
This number represents the total possible cohort of minors who could potentially be subject to the court order, and, based on past experience, includes a significant number of minors who cannot or should not be reunified with the adults in question.
The number is not the number of minors who will eventually qualify for reunification and be reunified. It is not, nor should it be, our objective to reunify all 2,551 minors with the adult whom they arrived here with, because some of those adults are not their parents or pose a clear danger to the children.
As we saw with the minors covered by the court case who are under age 5, and as the court has acknowledged, there are many circumstances that preclude a minor from being reunited with a parent, including when a purported parent ends up not being the parent, a parent poses a threat to the child’s well-being, or a parent is in custody elsewhere due to criminal activity.
The 2,551 number is lower than the number previously shared by HHS as the number of children eligible under the court case (“under 3,000”), because, in an effort to be as thorough as possible, we included in that number all minors who had any evidence that a separation may have occurred in their files. Since then, as our case workers have further refined the files and conducted interviews, we have been able to determine that a number of children who may have qualified under the court case are not in fact eligible. This includes, for example, cases where a child was reported to have traveled to the U.S. with a parent, but upon further examination it was learned that a separation occurred prior to crossing the border, or cases where the adult purporting to be a parent was found not to be a parent.
It is also worth noting that the 2,551 number is larger than the number of minors separated during the Zero Tolerance prosecution policy, as the court case covers minors who were separated for other reasons.