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>> Nearly 1,800 families were separated at the US Mexico border from October 2016, through February of this year. That's according to a government official who spoke anonymously with Reuters. Who said the number has risen sharply in recent weeks as US President Donald Trump implemented a zero tolerance immigration policy.
Reuters immigration reporter, Mica Rosenberg.>> This is when people cross illegally they can be charged with a misdemeanor crime and taken to jail. So if they happen to have children with them, those children are taken away. That's what's led to a big spike just in the first few weeks of May.
>> A US Customs and Boarder Patrol official testified to Congress last month that in early May, more than 600 children were separated from their parents because of the stepped up prosecution. That brings the total number of acknowledged separations to more than 2,400 and that doesn't include numbers from March, April or June.
Once taken from their parents, the children are put in the care of Health and Human Services, where they're treated as unaccompanied minors, children who have crossed the border alone.>> But oftentimes, many of these kids are very small. So they're placed in shelters or with foster families, but there's not very much good communication between all the different agencies.
So we've heard stories from advocates of parents moving through the system very quickly and deported back to their home country. All while their children are separated from them, they don't know where they are. They're in the custody of the government and it's very difficult for them to get them back.
>> Immigration and child advocates, Democratic lawmakers, and the United Nations have all condemned the practice. But the administration has defended its actions, saying it acts as a deterrent. But once public sentiment turned, Trump began to blame Democrats for his administration's policy.>> All they have to do is call us and we'll draw a bill that gives us great border safety and security, and it's fair.
>> Most of the separations involved Central Americans. Some we're arrested trying to enter the country illegally, while others presented themselves to border patrol agents asking for asylum because they feared returning home.