SAN DIEGO: Even before the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy went into effect in May, parents who crossed the border illegally ended up deported without the children they came with, according to a new report.

At least 228 children were left behind when their parents were removed after they crossed illegally together into the U.S. in April, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse of Syracuse University.

That’s one month before Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Homeland Security would refer everyone caught crossing the border for prosecution, a policy that led to public outrage over family separations and adults deported without their children.

Though the administration has said that family separations had to occur for parents to go into federal criminal custody, TRAC found that only one parent of the 228 children was referred for prosecution.

“It would appear most separations through at least April of this year took place for entirely different reasons than the rationale the administration has given,” the report concludes.

When Sessions announced the zero tolerance policy, he said it was necessary because of “massive increases in illegal crossings.”

Through public records requests, TRAC obtained Border Patrol data indicating the ages of people caught crossing the border since October 2014 and whether they were traveling with family members. Before this, data released by the government have not shown how many arriving family members were adults and how many were children.

Because families vary in size, it was difficult to determine how many families were actually coming into the U.S.

TRAC found that the number of adults arriving with children decreased 14.5 percent this fiscal year when compared with the same time period in 2017. Just over 23,000 adults with kids have been caught by Border Patrol through April of this fiscal year. The agency apprehended just over 27,000 through April last fiscal year.

While children who arrive at the border alone tend to be teens, kids who arrive with parents often are much younger, the report says. Over half of kids arrested with parents by the Border Patrol in fiscal 2018 were 7 or younger.

Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.

Health and Human Services is now reviewing its entire caseload of about 12,000 migrant kids in federal care to decide who is covered by a judge’s 30-day deadline for separated kids to be reunited with parents, the Associated Press reported.

The official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss an evolving situation, said Health and Human Services determined the audit was needed because the judge’s order covers all separated families, not just children and parents who were split apart from May 5 to June 20, when the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy was announced.