The contentious debate over immigration has intensified amid reports of the government losing track of 1,475 children and a new, controversial policy of separating children from their parents at the border.
Some of the media chatter has wrongly conflated the issue of losing track of children with the Trump administration's new policy of separating children from families that arrive at the U.S. border illegally, a move that appears to be aimed at deterring more families from coming altogether.
Here are five things to know about the developments over immigration, the plight of children being separated from their parents, and the kids who are unaccounted for at present.
1. Did 1,475 kids go missing?
The 1,475 children are not "missing children," as in lost to their parents or family, and these are not children the U.S. government separated from their families, but the government did lose track of where they are located.
A USA Today op-ed by E.J. Montini titled "The feds lost — yes, lost — 1,475 migrant children" was published Thursday explaining that the Trump administration's "new, get-tough policy that will separate parents from their children if the family is caught crossing the border illegally" overshadowed the news that the federal government lost 1,475 migrant children that had previously been in their custody.
"The Office of Refugee Resettlement reported at the end of 2017 that of the 7,000-plus children placed with sponsored individuals, the agency did not know where 1,475 of them were," Montini wrote, adding that in light of those missing kids Americans ought not trust government's promises to take greater steps to ensure safety.
Montini's was one of several recent articles that generated much public outcry, complete with #WhereAreTheChildren and #MissingChildren hashtags on social media. Some seem to think that the children who were separated from their families at the border were the ones missing.
The Washington Post clarified Sunday that although an official with the Department of Health and Human Services has indeed testified that the federal agency lost track of 1,475 children who had been placed with adult sponsors, these are not the children being separated from their parents. The 1,475 minors in question arrived at the border unaccompanied.
Under the new policy, when a family arrives at the border the children are separated from their families and the adults are criminally charged "even if the adults are seeking asylum and present themselves at official ports of entry."
The Department of Health and Human Services called 7,635 children in late 2017 that they had placed with sponsors. The agency found that 6,075 of the children were still living with their sponsors, 28 had run away, five had been deported, and 52 were living with someone else. The remaining 1,475 had gone missing.
2. The 'First Glimpse' of children in cages was from 2014; A 'prison bus' for babies.
A picture of young children lying on mats in cage-like arrangements at a border holding facility has reappeared online in the past week as though it was from 2018, when the photo was actually taken nearly four years ago, when Barack Obama was president.
Activist Shaun King, Women's March leader Linda Sarsour, former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau, CNN reporter Hadas Gold, and New York Times magazine editor in chief Jake Silverstein shared the photo on Twitter, with some expressing their shock and disgust.
Silverstein, Gold and Favreau subsequently removed their tweets, but not before they had been screenshotted. Gold explained in a subsequent post that she deleted her previous tweet "because [it] gave impression of recent photos (they're from 2014)." Silverstein and Favreau also updated their Twitter pages to say that the photos were from 2014.
Fox contributor Steven Miller mused sarcastically: "So weird how Linda Sarsour, an Obama Pod Bro, Shaun King, a NYT editor & a CNN reporter all tweeted the exact same AZ central article thinking it was 2018 & not 2014. How do those things happen? It's a Scooby mystery that may never be solved."
Others wondered where the outrage was in 2014 during the Obama administration.
Yet other photos that are more recent are surfacing and eliciting horror.
Antonio Arellano, a reporter with the Houston ABC affiliate tweeted an April 2016 photo of a bus equipped full of car seats that belongs to ICE's largest family detention center, Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, which is run by contractor GEO Group, calling it "a prison bus just for babies."
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission was aghast, retweeting the photo along with Thomas Jefferson's famous quote denouncing slavery: "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."
The GEO Group says on its website that due to the expansion of the center in 2015, "new demands to an already unique transportation mission by requiring larger capacity vehicles to provide offsite field trips" were created.
3. HHS says not responsible to find missing children, some may have deliberately gone 'off the grid.'
The Washington Post also reported Sunday that officials at HHS have maintained that it is not the legal responsibility of the agency to locate those children once they are released from the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Adult sponsors are sometimes relatives who already were living in the United States and who intentionally may not be responding to contact attempts by HHS. Vox reporter Dara Lind pointed out on Twitter that amid the fury over the HHS Senate testimony mentioning the children had gone missing that "we do not know how many of these children weren't located because they and their relatives in the US (who might even be their parents!) made the decision to go off the grid to reduce deportation risk."
Some have raised the possibility that those kids have wound up in the hands of traffickers, an idea bolstered by a PBS "Frontline" report that aired on April 24 about trafficking in the United States. The episode traced how eight children were forced to work at an egg farm in Ohio.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who is known for his advocacy on human trafficking issues, criticized HHS in the PBS special.
"We've got these kids. They're here. They're living on our soil," he said in the interview.
"And for us to just, you know, assume someone else is going to take care of them and throw them to the wolves, which is what HHS was doing, is flat-out wrong. I don't care what you think about immigration policy, it's wrong."
4. Trump blames Democrats; Marco Rubio says change the law.
As The Hill reported Sunday, Marco Rubio has expressed openness to changing the law.
"We have a problem and it needs to be dealt with. The ideal scenario is that families be kept together and returned expeditiously back to their country of origin," the Florida Republican U.S. senator said on the CBS Sunday show "Face the Nation."
"We sympathize with people that are coming here," he added. "America is the most generous country in the world and ideally you wouldn't put people through additional trauma once they came into the United States."
President Trump blamed Democrats for his administration's policy, tweeting Saturday that the law was "horrible" and that the Democratic party was protecting violent gang members.
"Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS."
Rubio replied, when asked about Trump's tweet: "But the better law to change is to secure our border and to send a clear message that you cannot continue to enter the United States illegally."
"It is actually inhumane not to secure our border because we are sending out a message that is encouraging people to come here. We have to understand a lot of these people that are crossing children are being trafficked here," Rubio said.
"They are being brought here by criminal groups that help guide them and often take advantage of them and brutalize them on the path towards the United States and the ability to cross that border is a magnet that is drawing this behavior."
The Washington Post noted Sunday that in April over 50,000 migrants were apprehended or otherwise deemed "inadmissible."
5. To be fully pro-life, one must care about these children separated at the border, some say.
Reaction to the greater awareness about the plight of these children at the border precipitated some notable Christians to use their platforms to point out that being "pro-life" means more than caring about unborn life.
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson spoke to this on Twitter Saturday, telling pro-life people that "if you're upset about ripping a child out of his mother's womb, please be upset about ripping a child out of his mother's arms at the border. Responding to illegal acts with evil acts is not the way of a moral people."
"What does it mean to be pro-social justice if you defend the life of a child on the border, but not the life of a child in the womb?"
"What does it mean to be pro-life if you defend the life of a child in the womb, but not the life of a child on the border?"
Similarly, Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, compared the issue of separating children from their mothers at the American border with the nation of Ireland's Friday vote to repeal the 8th amendment in their constitution which barred abortion.
"Licensing the killing of unborn children in Ireland (as has been done throughout the West). Separating children from mothers here. Dreadful."