Berman: Not a rounding error, they're children

CNN's John Berman blasts the Trump administration for its lack of transparency on exactly how many children, who were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border, are in government custody.

Posted: Jul 8, 2018 3:22 PM
Updated: Jul 8, 2018 3:25 PM

Do you know where the children are?

For the United States, the answer to that question is still a remarkable "no." The Trump administration is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis that it created. And it has exacerbated the tragedy by failing to implement, with urgency, well understood crisis management skills to solve the problem.

There is no reason that the reunification of children who were separated by US authorities from their parents should be so chaotic.

Just a day after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar confidently notified the public that the administration would satisfy a court's order to reunite all children younger than 5 by a July 10 deadline, the government reversed course and asked the court for an extension. Sarah Fabian, an attorney for the Justice Department, admitted that the administration still does not know where the parents of nearly 20% of the children are because those parents were released from ICE custody.

In other words, the administration would not be able to satisfy the judicial order. These numbers do not include reunification of "older" (older than 5) children, which is set for July 26. The lack of any paperwork or accounting means the government is resorting to DNA testing to be able to match these families. And the numbers are all over the place: The government still does not have an exact number of parents or children who remain separated. It has estimated that number to be about 3,000.

There are no excuses. Even assuming that the removal policy was sound public policy -- and it was not -- it simply defies logic that our own government would separate children from their families with no serious effort at an accounting and tracking system to be able to reunite them at some stage.

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised. After all, the Trump administration, through Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, originally denied even doing it, then balked at the notion that they could stop it. Donald Trump eventually caved to public pressure with an executive order that was so weak it took a court to step in to demand reunification. Was the thought that if the policy wasn't acknowledged these kids would simply -- what, exactly? Go away?

Even worse, the reunification process has lacked the urgency and organization that is required of any crisis. Family reunification is a well understood consequence of any disaster; governments spend considerable effort in training and planning procedures (such as organizing non-governmental agencies, churches and schools to assist, creating databases, and picture galleries) in focusing on how to bring children and families back together should they be separated by an event.

Family unification is always a priority. After all, disasters happen all the time, and while this one was planned and executed by the government, our efforts would have been better served by implementing disaster management lessons to try to bring them together.

What would that take? Well, let's start with the obvious. This is the United States. Unlike Haiti after an earthquake, or Thailand after a tsunami, the basic infrastructure here works: phones, electricity, cameras and computers. The pool of children separated is relatively small compared to many other disasters, such as the Haiti earthquake or Thailand's tsunami; the number of facilities holding these children should be known with some certitude.

What's lacking then, is a focus by the very White House that got us to this moment.

As reported, the reunification has been stymied by the number of agencies and state and local stakeholders involved in the effort. HHS has borne the brunt of the reunification demands since the children are in their custody. But, multiple players also have strong equities and insights.

DHS, whose agencies forcibly removed these children, has been accused of destroying some of the data that links parents to their children, though DHS has denied this claim. There is also the Department of Justice, which oversees the immigration courts; the Department of Defense, which has been preparing to hold families; the State Department, which is getting queries from nations where the children came from; state and local governments where the facilities reside; and private sector contractors who own and manage where these kids are held.

What we are missing here is leadership. A point person, an incident commander, a czar, someone in the White House who can manage these various entities and claims and force movement and solution. The White House has remained relatively quiet on this front; the President's homeland security adviser has been notably absent when it comes down to the reunification effort.

And so the consequence, outside the mere fact that these children are waiting in limbo, has been a second kind of disaster. It means that what should have been a process to reunite these kids has been too slow; data and numbers have been all over the place, and therefore unreliable; and courts have had to get involved to force the government to do what it could have done on its own.

It is clear now that the Trump administration never processed the consequences of its policy and then never processed the urgency of finding a solution. The reason? Others can fill in the blanks: cruelty as a public policy, racism, ignorance, chaos as a means of management, or simply bad execution.

Tuesday, the Trump administration is supposed to reunite children younger than 5 with their parents. It will miss that deadline for some of these kids. That we are at this stage defies any appropriate adjectives. Try harder.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 164581

Reported Deaths: 4143
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion26055792
Lake14436358
St. Joseph9606168
Elkhart9271138
Allen8647231
Hamilton6400115
Vanderburgh617162
Tippecanoe396715
Porter347550
Hendricks3418134
Monroe335638
Johnson3286130
Delaware311575
Clark306263
Vigo275340
Madison250896
LaPorte239261
Cass229724
Warrick205065
Kosciusko201127
Floyd187468
Howard169466
Bartholomew147958
Marshall147428
Dubois146426
Wayne142031
Grant133539
Henry133030
Boone129150
Hancock124744
Noble122935
Jackson121018
Dearborn103128
Morgan100340
Lawrence96838
Gibson94412
Clinton92416
Daviess92334
Shelby90632
LaGrange82815
Knox81810
Harrison81024
Posey7767
Putnam77616
Fayette76719
DeKalb76011
Jasper6885
Miami6715
Steuben6608
Montgomery63122
White62316
Greene57838
Adams5607
Scott55413
Decatur52839
Ripley4838
Whitley4836
Clay4617
Sullivan45714
Wells45611
Huntington4455
Starke4438
Wabash4439
Orange42425
Spencer4176
Randolph39210
Jennings38713
Washington3873
Franklin38325
Fulton3785
Perry36914
Jefferson3655
Pike35718
Carroll34313
Jay3386
Fountain3293
Tipton28423
Vermillion2721
Parke2564
Rush2464
Blackford2394
Newton23711
Owen2151
Martin2050
Pulaski1783
Crawford1631
Brown1473
Ohio1337
Union1140
Benton1130
Switzerland980
Warren911
Unassigned0236

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 200231

Reported Deaths: 5217
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin32468642
Cuyahoga20452685
Hamilton17564344
Montgomery10959190
Butler8727131
Lucas8549375
Summit6978269
Warren446566
Stark4045182
Mahoning3863287
Marion345650
Pickaway309246
Delaware299728
Lorain286289
Fairfield284257
Licking274367
Clark263157
Clermont262238
Wood262082
Greene249942
Trumbull2380134
Allen228974
Columbiana218588
Miami213258
Lake206959
Medina197242
Portage172468
Mercer159629
Wayne155871
Ross148939
Richland143024
Tuscarawas138627
Athens12812
Erie119454
Darke119051
Hancock113327
Putnam112527
Auglaize110618
Madison108115
Lawrence98525
Shelby96414
Muskingum9534
Scioto9219
Geauga89850
Belmont81127
Union7993
Ashtabula76048
Sandusky74022
Huron72915
Holmes71611
Preble67718
Seneca63614
Ottawa61030
Fulton57115
Henry53117
Crawford5268
Clinton50613
Defiance50513
Jefferson4994
Jackson4928
Highland4756
Fayette46110
Logan4573
Ashland4359
Knox42516
Champaign4233
Brown4103
Morrow3872
Perry38511
Washington38124
Hardin36713
Williams3664
Guernsey3658
Coshocton34412
Pike3340
Gallia30613
Wyandot30313
Van Wert2905
Paulding2392
Adams2266
Carroll2217
Meigs21412
Hocking2129
Monroe17818
Noble1660
Vinton1093
Harrison863
Morgan830
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 39°
Angola
41° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 38°
Huntington
Overcast
42° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 42°
Decatur
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 43°
Van Wert
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 43°
Sunny Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events