The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The children separated from their parents, by the numbers

Dozens of women and their children, many fleeing poverty and violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, arrive at a bus station after their release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention on June 22, 2018, in McAllen, Tex. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It is not clear exactly how many children were taken from their parents after crossing the border into the United States. It is not clear how many of those children have been reunited with their parents since. It is also not clear how quickly the government will be able to reunite those children with their parents, given the haphazard process by which the separations occurred in the first place.

We do know the government will not meet a court-imposed deadline for reuniting children under the age of 5 with their migrant parents. That was apparent Friday, when government attorneys asked for an extension of the July 10 deadline to complete those reunions. On Monday, we learned more details about why the government would not hit that deadline — and just how far from the goal it would get.

It is worth stepping back, though, and considering the broad pool of children separated from their parents. As noted above, we do not know exactly how many children were separated from their families or how many have rejoined them. What we do know is this:

Let’s walk through the numbers:

Up to 1,000 separated from their parents not included in official numbers. Children who are split from their parents enter a separate process than the adults with whom they crossed the border. Children are handled by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Adults are held in criminal detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Last week, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said “under 3,000″ children were still separated from their parents. That number is higher than other estimates presented by the government by up to 1,000 children. (Azar said the number was higher than past estimates because the agency was “erring on the side of inclusion” to get the best possible estimate of the group.)

Between 1,425 and 1,720 still being held. This number is based on the two specific estimates offered for the number of children separated from their parents. The first was 2,047, a figure given in late June by Azar. The administration has said 2,342 children in total were separated from their parents. (The lighter-colored icons on our chart indicate the difference between those two figures.)

About 520 already reunited. The difference between those numbers and the figures for the number of children still being held? About 520 have been reunited already, according to CBS News.

That brings us to an update provided by the government on Monday about the 102 children under the age of 5 identified as having been separated from their parents. A breakdown of those cases was reported by HuffPost’s Elise Foley.

Of the 102, only two have been reunited. Fifty-four are set to be reunited this week with their parents, who will be released from ICE custody, according to Talking Points Memo’s Alice Ollstein. Five more will be released after further investigation of their parents. Four of the children will join sponsor families. One child’s parents could not be identified.

A number of children cannot be released to their parents, either because the parents were released from custody into the United States or deported or because the parents are serving criminal sentences. Three of the children were found not to be the actual children of the adult they arrived with, making them “unaccompanied minors” in the legal system. Another three have parents accused of serious criminal violations, preventing reunification. (These six children were determined not to be eligible for reunification.)

In other words, only about half of the 96 children under the age of 5 (excluding those six) will have been reunified with their parents by the court-ordered deadline on Tuesday. It bodes poorly for the other 1,400 to 1,700 children probably still in government custody after having been separated from their parents. The United States has until July 26 to reunite them with their families.

Assuming, that is, that those numbers are correct.