A State Department report criticized the practice of separating migrant children from their parents, saying kids in detention facilities face a higher risk of psychological trauma.
The finding, reports POLITICO, was included in the agency’s Trafficking in Persons Report, released Thursday. It follows moves by the administration and courts to curb the practice, including a ruling that should see children under five reunited with their parents within 14 days.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented the findings alongside Ivanka Trump during a Thursday press conference. Pompeo, writes the New York Times, didn’t mention the administration’s controversial take on immigration affairs.
“Children in institutional care, including government-run facilities, can be easy targets for traffickers,” read the report. “Even at their best, residential institutions are unable to meet a child’s need for emotional support that is typically received from family members or consistent caretakers with whom the child can develop an attachment.”
Rather than detaining children in jail-like facilities, the State Department recommends “family-based care options over institutional care whenever appropriate.”
Pulling apart families, writes the report, should be considered a “last resort”—considered only in cases of child endangerment.
“Oversight bodies should demand stricter monitoring of children’s homes, ensuring they meet international guidelines and pursue criminal accountability for those who facilitate or organize trafficking in or near government facilities,” said the report.
Last week, President Trump defended detention centers for immigrant children as a potential safeguard against human smuggling. He blamed their necessity on a “massive child smuggling trade.”
“Can you believe this?” asked Trump. “In this day and age, we’re talking about child smuggling.
“We’re talking about women smuggling in this day and age. The worst it’s been in history because the internet has led to this.”
John Sifton, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, told POLITICO that the report impugns the administration’s claims of responsibility.
“It is an indictment of the Trump administration’s own policies with respect to asylum-seekers and others seeking entry to the United States,” Sifton said. “We hope Ms. Trump and Secretary Pompeo can share it with other federal agencies and brief them about it in more detail.”
The Times notes that nothing in the report explicitly condemned President Trump. Child trafficking doesn’t appear to be peaking, and neither are most minors arriving to the border forced there by criminal groups.
During the course of Thursday’s ceremony, Secretary Pompeo and Ivanka Trump also offered praise and condemnation for countries battling human trafficking. Among the countries he commended, writes the New York Times¸ were Estonia, Argentina, Bahrain and Cyprus. The State Department criticized Libya, Myanmar, North Korea and Iran.
“The world should know that we will not stop until human trafficking is a thing of the past,” said Pompeo.