(Reuters) – In late June, attorney Sebastian Harley tried to log into a U.S. government web portal to check on a Guatemalan child who had been separated from his parent at the border. He got an error message saying there were too many users.
“I just couldn’t get in,” he said. “The system appeared to be down.”
It was not an isolated incident. From the moment it went online in January of 2014, the computer system designed to track unaccompanied immigrant children and process their release has created headaches for the shelter staff, government employees and others who use it, according to interviews with a dozen current and former users, government reports, and congressional testimony.
Users described a frustrating array of issues, including that the portal could only handle a limited number of users at once without crashing, lost saved data, had poor searchability and required significant manual work for even small updates.
Now that system, operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and known as the UAC portal, has become a key part of the effort to track thousands of children under government supervision who were separated from their parents by immigration officials in recent months. It is being used by government employees, legal service providers, shelter workers and call center operators looking to answer parents’ questions about their children’s whereabouts.
But the system was set up to track unaccompanied minors rather than those separated…