Speed Reads

zero tolerance

Migrant mother says DHS returned her 14-month-old son after 85 days, filthy and covered with lice

On Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters that HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement is still holding nearly 3,000 children separated from their parents, including about 100 younger than age 5, and is working very hard to comply with a federal court order to reunite those children with their parents by July 26, or July 10 for the under-5 children. Previously, HHS said it had 2,047 separated children in custody, of 2,300 split from their parents by Customs and Border Patrol. It now appears HHS and the Department of Homeland Security don't actually know the locations of all migrant parents and their separated children, as they claimed.

Lisa Desjardins summarized Azar's statements on Thursday's PBS NewsHour, then turned to the 1,000 pages of documentation released as part of the lawsuit from 17 states and the District of Columbia seeking to scrap President Trump's "zero tolerance" border policy and blanket incarceration of asylum seekers. We "have some very gripping and, frankly, difficult-to-read personal testimonies," Desjardins said, reading part of the story from a woman named Olivia Caceras, whose 14-month-old child was returned to her after 85 days.

The child "continued to cry when we got home and would hold on to my leg and and would not let me go," Caceras testified. "When I took off his clothes he was full of dirt and lice. It seemed like they had not bathed him the 85 days he was away from us." NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff was aghast. "Eighty-five days without bathing?" she asked. "This is her accusation," Desjardins said, and while the government won't comment on the allegations, there is an HHS shelter for children at the location the mother named. Desjardins also touched on some of the repeated allegations of guards using racial slurs, insults, gratuitous cruelty, and other verbal abuse on detainees, cautioning that these testimonies were put forth by critics of Trump's policies. Watch her report below. Peter Weber