Tracking Family Separations

How the number of separated children grew to nearly 4,300, and why many more than 103 of them must be under five years of age.

In the last post I offered a simple bookkeeping model using reported figures from DHS and plausible extrapolations to estimate the number of children separated from their parents at the border since October, 2016.  Here is the time track of the number of children in custody. The solid lines connect points based on DHS reports; the dotted lines are estimates.

The black lines represent the period of “zero tolerance,” during which nearly 3,000 children were taken from their parents.  Since then DHS has reported 538 reunifications that span zero-tolerance and maybe earlier.  I estimate another 126 children were reunited with parents between the end of family separations on June 20th and July 5th when DHHS Secretary Azar told reporters the number of children in custody numbered “fewer than 3,000.”

Much attention has been paid to the 103 children under five who were supposed to be reunited with their parents last week.  A rate of 103 children under five from a population of  “fewer than 3,000” separated children is entirely preposterous.  About one in three children living in the countries from which most families migrate is under five years of age.  There must be hundreds more “tender-aged” children in custody than the government has accounted for so far.