Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the US border since the start of the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration, according to new figures from the Department of Homeland Security.
Numbers obtained by the Associated Press show 1,995 minors were separated from their families between 19 April and 31 May, while trying to enter the country in between official crossings. Senior White House officials confirmed these numbers in a background briefing with members of the press.
Approximately 700 children were separated from their families between October and April, before the zero tolerance policy was implemented, according to the New York Times.
The new policy, which Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on 6 April, requires US officials to refer all adults who enter the country illegally for prosecution. Under existing law, migrant children must be housed separately while their parents face trial.
The new policy has sparked outcry from immigrants rights activists, who shared stories of children being torn from their parents’ arms at the border. The backlash escalated following an NBC report that detailed the conditions inside a Texas immigrant detention centre where children were allowed outside for only two hours per day.