FACT CHECK: Brit Hume Claims That The Number Of Unaccompanied Minors Dwarfs The Number Separated At The Border

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume said on Twitter that the number of migrant children who arrived at the border alone, without their families, is much higher than the number forcibly separated from their families at the border.

“I wonder if the journalists working this story are aware that the overwhelming majority of immigrant minors separated from their families arrived at the border without families,” he tweeted Wednesday.

“There are far more children separated from parents who arrive that way then there are children separated at the border,” he elaborated in a tweet Thursday.

Verdict: True

The government identified 2,634 migrant minors in its care who were forcibly separated from adults. Several times as many alien minors in its care arrived in the U.S. without an adult.

The U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended over 40,000 unaccompanied minors so far in fiscal year 2018.

Fact Check:

Hume mentioned the large number of unaccompanied immigrant minors at the border in response to news reports about the number of children reunited with their families or other adults after being forcibly separated from them.

He is not the first to point to the high number of minors who arrived at the border alone in response to outrage over the forced separations.

“80% of minors cared for by HHS arrived in the US alone, unaccompanied, without a parent. They were not separated by the government,” the White House said in a June tweet.

President Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, pointed to the high number of unaccompanied alien minors caught during President Barack Obama’s presidency. “Fact: Over 90,000 kids were detained under Obama. And no one cared,” he said in a tweet in June.

The government stepped up the number of children who it separated from their families at the border as a result of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy towards those who cross the border illegally. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy – which required criminal prosecution of all adults border crossers – in April.

Because the law prohibits children from being held in federal detention facilities, the government separated children from illegal immigrant adults being detained. The Department of Homeland Security referred the children to the Office of Refugee Resettlement within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

It is true that far more minors arrived at the border alone than the number of children who illegally crossed the border with a parent, family member or other adult and then were separated from them by the government.

“When you’re looking at the number of children in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the majority of them are children who arrived at the border unaccompanied,” Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Government agencies identified about 2,634 alien minors – 103 children under age 5 and 2,531 ages 5 to 17 (some reports say 2,551) – in its care who had been forcibly separated from adults. That figure includes migrant minors separated at the border as a result of the zero-tolerance policy and those who were separated for other reasons.

HHS noted that on June 20, 83 percent of alien minors in its care – 9,834 children – arrived in the U.S. without a parent or guardian and that 17 percent – 2,053 children – were in its care due to zero tolerance enforcement. The White House tweet referenced this figure.

Parscale’s tweet appeared to refer to the number of unaccompanied minors that HHS processed while Obama was in office. A 2016 report to the Senate said that HHS placed almost 90,000 unaccompanied alien minors with sponsors in the U.S. since the beginning of FY 2014.

The number of unaccompanied alien minors apprehended by the Border Patrol around the time that the Trump administration implemented the zero-tolerance policy is much higher than the 2,634 forcibly separated minors. The Border Patrol apprehended 10,666 minors who arrived at the border without an adult in April and May. It has caught 41,347 unaccompanied alien minors at the border so far in FY 2018, from October 2017 to July 2018.

Pierce said that Hume’s strange phrasing and characterization of unaccompanied alien minors – “immigrant minors separated from their families” who “arrived at the border without families” – minimizes the seriousness of forced separation by implying that unaccompanied minors too had been “separated.”

“It’s really misleading language, and it’s weird for him to be pointing out this issue as if that somehow makes it better that the government forcibly separated thousands of children from their parents at the border,” Pierce told TheDCNF.

MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff pushed back on Hume’s suggestion that journalists did not know that such a high number of minors arrive at the border alone.

“Been saying overwhelming majority of migrant kids in HHS custody arrived unaccompanied since day I went inside that former WalMart in Brownsville. Does’t change fact Trump administration systematically separated 2,551 kids from parents, and 572 *still* separated,” he said in a tweet Wednesday.

News stories about migrant children separated from their families by the U.S. government do not always also call attention to the high number of minors crossing the border alone, but some do mention unaccompanied alien minors. Many outlets have published stories in recent months that focus on minors who arrive at the border without an adult.

A federal judge ordered the government in June to reunify forcibly separated alien minors with their parents or the adults who they arrived with within 30 days. About 1,992 minors ages 5 to 17 have been reunited and 539 are still separated.

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Published: Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter