A draft report detailing the results of an investigation into the Trump administration's policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border led by Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice Michael E. Horowitz, and obtained by The New York Times, has contradicted previous claims from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While DHS denied claims of separating a nursing Honduran mother from her child in 2018, Horowitz's draft report revealed that an undisclosed number of breastfeeding immigrant mothers had been separated from their babies under the president's zero-tolerance immigration policy.
The New York Times was reportedly able to review a copy of Horowitz's 86-page draft report and interviewed three government officials familiar with the report's details and conclusions. According to the newspaper, the report revealed that "government prosecutors reacted with alarm at the separation of children from their parents during a secret 2017 pilot program along the Mexican border in Texas."
In fact, one prosecutor wrote his superior specifically regarding the separation of children and breastfeeding mothers. "We have now heard of us taking breastfeeding defendant moms away from their infants," The Times quoted the prosecutor as having wrote. "I did not believe this until I looked at the duty log." Romper has reached out to DHS for comment on Horowitz's draft report.
While The Times' report provides no additional information or specifics on the prosecutor's claim, this actually isn't the first time the Trump administration has been accused of pulling nursing children away from their mothers. In June 2018, BuzzFeed News reported the Texas Civil Rights Project had alleged that a Honduran mother was separated from her daughter while breastfeeding at a detention center after being found attempting to cross into the United States near the Rio Grande river.
"When she resisted having her daughter taken from her she said agents forcibly took her child and then placed her in handcuffs," Director of the Texas Civil Rights Project's Criminal Justice Program Natalia Cornelio told BuzzFeed News.
When questioned about the claim, a DHS spokesperson told reporters they believed the claim was "false" and that they had found no documentation of such an incident. "We do not separate breastfeeding children from their parents," the spokesperson told reporters, according to The Hill. "That does not exist. That is not a policy. That is not something that DHS does."
Representatives for DHS stood firm in a conference call with reporters that they have no evidence that a nursing baby was separated from a migrant mother, as a CNN report in June 2018 suggested it might have happened. DHS officials also argued that — with rare exceptions — separating nursing children from mothers who are put into immigration detention is against policy.
But a few months later, in August 2018, reports surfaced that a mother from El Salvador was suing the Trump administration after being separated from her still-breastfeeding 11-month-old daughter. According to Parents, Leydi Duenas-Claros was separated from her daughter after crossing the border to rejoin her older children, all of whom are U.S. citizens by birth. Her request for asylum was denied and as of August 2018 she was still separated from her child, as Parents reported.
Then in October 2018, The Texas Tribune in partnership with Reveal reported that a Guatemalan mother who attempted to enter the country legally by requesting asylum at an international bridge between Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico, in May of that year was separated from her four children, one of whom was still nursing and just a few months old at the time. According to Reveal, the mother was separated from her children for over a month. In fact, the family was detained in different states. And while in detention, the mother's milk went dry so that even upon her reunion with her children she was unable to nurse.
So although DHS has previously claimed it does not have a policy of separating nursing mothers from their children, Horowitz's own draft report — and multiple other news reports — contradict that statement and reveal breastfeeding mothers were separated from their nursing children under the Trump administration.