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House Democrats Subpoenaed Trump Officials Over Family Separation. Here's What We Already Know.

Democrats, newly in control of the House of Representatives, sent out their first round of subpoenas to the Trump administration on Tuesday, as the House Oversight Committee voted to compel a collection of officials to provide documents and testimony about the administration's controversial "zero-tolerance" policy, which led to family separations on the southern border.

Before the vote, the committee's chairman, Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), called family separation "a true national emergency" and "government-sponsored child abuse." Under his chairmanship, the House Oversight Committee will pursue details of family separation, including how children were separated from their parents, where they were held, and what efforts the government has undergone to reunite them with their parents.

While the subpoenas may lead to new information, internal government investigations have already revealed that the government was seriously unprepared to implement Trump's zero-tolerance policy. As Pacific Standard reported in October, a report by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General found that the policy led border officials to break with both policy and the law:

Among other failures, the report found that under-resourced border authorities broke the law and detained children for illegal amounts of time at facilities meant for short-term holding. ... [It also] described how a lack of communication between government agencies rendered officials unable to locate children's parents when they sought to reunite them; how parents were given misinformation about how (and if) they could reunite with their children; and how policies at overwhelmed official ports of entry compelled many asylum seekers to attempt illegal border crossings.

In their investigation, Democrats in Congress will not only subpoena the DHS, but also the Department of Health and Human Services (which managed the care of children after they were separated) and the Department of Justice (which created the zero-tolerance policy).