America Spends $30,000 Every Time a Migrant Child Is Separated and Reunited With Family

The financial cost of the Trump administration's widely condemned "zero tolerance" immigration policy that separated thousands of children from their parents has been revealed: The first official price tag totals at least $80 million, which represents the cost of caring for and reuniting migrant children with their families.

The policy, which President Donald Trump abruptly rescinded on June 20 after facing widespread backlash, resulted in separating about 2,500 children from their parents.

The $80 million price tag means that the U.S. has so far spent roughly $30,000 per child under the policy, condemned by the United Nations as a violation of children's rights.

Thousands march to support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30 in New York City. A new Health and Human Services report revealed that the U.S. has spent around $80 million on the Trump administration's now-rescinded "zero tolerance" immigration policy. Spencer Platt/Getty

The cost of the separations, which was revealed in a Health and Human Services Department report that members of Congress shared with The New York Times, is expected to rise, as more than 140 children are still in federal custody.

It is still not clear what will become of those children, because dozens of their parents have been declared "ineligible" for reunification because they have criminal histories, and 117 detained children have parents who were deported from U.S.

Of the parents who have been located, seven asked for their children to be returned home, while 99 others waived their rights to reunification, according to The Times. Many such parents are hoping for a better life for their children in the U.S., rather than returning them to the countries they sought to flee over fears of violence, severe poverty or political instability.

Meanwhile, other parents have yet to be found, with nongovernmental organizations still working with the federal government to locate them, five months after the policy was halted.

While the Trump administration never officially launched a "family separation" policy, the separation of children from their parents came as a result of the government's "zero tolerance" policy that sought to prosecute anyone caught crossing the border illegally.

Adults taken into criminal custody were separated from their children, who were taken into the care of the Health and Human Services Department.

Shortly after reversing the policy, the Trump administration was ordered by a federal judge in San Diego late last June to reunify all the separated families, which it still has yet to do, meaning the cost of the "zero tolerance" policy is only expected to grow.

Responding to the costs of the policy, Representative Rosa DeLaura of Connecticut, who serves as the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee, said it was "outrageous."

"It has been at least seven months since the Trump administration began traumatizing thousands of families, and they still have not fully resolved this tragedy," DeLauro told The Times.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Lee Gelernt, who represented separated parents in court, told the newspaper that there was still "a lot more work to do" to reunify all the children separated from their families, adding that the families would also require medical assistance "to deal with the trauma caused by the separation."