POLITICS
06/26/2018 05:44 pm ET

Official Won't Say If U.S. Government Is Still Taking In Separated Children

The Department of Health and Human Services wouldn't answer a PBS journalist's question.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services refused to say Tuesday whether the agency is still receiving migrant children separated from their parents.

During a multi-agency call with reporters, Lisa Desjardins with “PBS NewsHour” asked whether the government is still taking in children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border even after President Donald Trump’s executive order to stop family separation. Officials responded to a different part of Desjardins’ questions, without saying whether HHS is still receiving children.

“Wait, wait, no,” Desjardins said after officials attempted to move on. “Actually this is really important, excuse me. Are you still receiving children who are there because of the family separation policy?” 

A media spokesperson for HHS told Desjardins to email her question and gave time to another journalist. 

Commander Jonathan White, with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, told reporters on the call that there are currently 2,047 children in HHS custody who have been separated from their parents. That number is only six fewer than the number HHS gave on Saturday, without context as to whether more children are being taken in. 

None of the 522 children who have been reunited with family members by U.S. Customs and Border Protection came into the care of HHS or the Office of Refugee Resettlement, White told reporters Tuesday. 

Trump’s administration has come under fire in recent weeks for the controversial zero tolerance policy that resulted in more than 2,500 children being separated from their parents at the border. Parents have described not being able to contact their children and in some cases being deported without them.

The president signed an executive order on Wednesday to end family separation by detaining families together, which conflicts with a prior settlement that requires the government to release child migrants from detention after 20 days. It is unclear what will happen if the courts deny the Trump administration’s request to overturn that decision. 

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