U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials attempted to rebut claims that they have been separating families at border ports of entry, saying Monday that the agency split only seven families out of 5,298 who presented themselves at legal international checkpoints from May to June.
“Separation at the ports of entry is very rare,” said Executive Assistant Commissioner Todd C. Owen of the Border Patrol’s Office of Field Operations. “We are very judicious about the family unit.”
Owen said, however, that U.S. officials have been struggling to process asylum seekers because of a lack of temporary holding space at the nation’s 328 ports of entry. He also said the agency has been working with Mexican counterparts to hold families seeking asylum at shelters in Mexico instead of letting them wait on border bridges where they would be “exposed to the elements.”
The numbers are the first the agency has released concerning family separations at legal ports amid the Trump administration’s enforcement of its “zero-tolerance” policy.
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