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Donald Trump on Thursday night defended his administration's policy of separating immigrant children from their families with no way of reuniting them, claiming they are "so well taken care of."

Asked at the final presidential debate about the 545 detained immigrant kids taken forcibly from their parents at the southern U.S. border under his administration's zero-tolerance policy, whose families the Trump administration has been unable to locate, Trump first suggested without proof that some had been brought into the country by "coyotes."

Former Vice President Joe Biden quickly refuted that argument, noting that the kids in question had come over with their families before being separated by border officials.

"Let's talk about what we're talking about, what happened. Parents, their kids were ripped from their arms and separated. And now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone, nowhere to go," Biden noted. "It's criminal."

Trump then falsely claimed that the children were being kept in great facilities.

"I will say this. They went down. We brought reporters, everything. They are so well taken care of. They're in facilities were so clean and have gotten such good..." he bragged.


In reality, the Department Health and Human Services' own inspector general has documented widespread trauma among those children, many of whom have been held in facilities with histories of abuse and misconduct. A September 2019 investigation found "some separated children expressed acute grief that caused them to cry inconsolably."

A separate 2018 report by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general found that hundreds of children were also unlawfully detained for more than three days — often in cages, without beds or showers — and that the Border Patrol failed to even keep track of which of the nonverbal young kids were which.

Thursday night's question about the 545 separated children stemmed from a New York Times report published on Wednesday, which revealed that the Trump administration's poor record keeping had made it difficult to impossible to decipher the parents' whereabouts. And though in some cases, parents said they had left their children with friends after being deported, they only did so because they felt forced or were concerned for their children's safety if they came with them.

"The Trump administration had no plans to keep track of the families or ever reunite them and so that's why we're in the situation we're in now, to try to account for each family," Justice in Motion's Nan Schivone, who is working with other advocates to help find the parents, told the Times.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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