A pediatrician charged by Los Angeles federal court with monitoring conditions of migrant children detained by the U.S. government revealed in a recent court filing that some children were temporarily separated from their parents while in the patrol’s custody border this summer due to overpopulation.
Dr. Paul Wise, an associate pediatrician at Stanford University, surveyed families in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas this summer and found that children as young as 8 were being separated from their parents while that they were temporarily detained by Customs and Border Protection, according to the document filed Friday in the Central District of California.
“Interviews with parents and children revealed that there was little or no opportunity for telephone contact or direct interaction between parent and child. The separation of families and lack of interaction during detention causes significant, and potentially lasting, harm to children, especially younger children,” Wise said in the court filing.
Wise also said some migrants have reported children younger than 8 years old being separated. He noted that in the past, some teenagers who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with their mothers were separated from family groups that typically housed younger children. But in the cases he documented this summer, the separated children were much younger, according to the filing.
A Customs and Border Protection official told NBC News that the circumstances in which families are separated in CBP custody are rare and that separation This usually happens when a father travels alone with his children. If CBP staff are unable to find a group for that family due to overcrowding, they conduct an age-based assessment of the children and sometimes place the children in a group with other children of their age and gender, the official said.
The official was unable to give exact numbers on the number of families separated by the Biden administration while in CBP custody, and said the practice may be happening now.
“The health and safety of those in our custody, our staff and the communities we serve are paramount. DHS and CBP prioritize keeping families together at every stage of the immigration process and have protocols in place to do so. CBP appreciates Dr. Wise’s oversight; we will continue to review the report and associated recommendations and respond appropriately,” a CBP spokesperson said.
All federal government reports The separation of migrant families has come under increased scrutiny after the Trump administration systematically separated more than 5,000 migrant children from their parents in 2017 and 2018 in an effort to deter families from crossing the border illegally.
The families Wise documented in his report were only temporarily separated during their CBP detention, which typically lasts only a few days. A federal court order requires their release within 72 hours. The Trump administration, for its part, separated families in CBP custody and then sent children to shelters run by Health and Human Services, with no way for parents to know where their children were.
Wise was appointed as a court observer in a case originally filed in the mid-1980s that set standards for how migrant children should be treated while in the custody of the U.S. government.