Con­tin­u­ing mis­sion

Fam­i­lies sep­a­rated at bor­der need to be re­united be­fore more harm is done to chil­dren.

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

The White House need not be hang­ing a “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” ban­ner any time soon.

Many Amer­i­cans may have breathed a sigh of re­lief when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that would os­ten­si­bly end the mon­strous prac­tice of rip­ping away Cen­tral Amer­i­can asy­lum seek­ers from their chil­dren. It ap­peared that the pres­i­dent had come to his senses on his “zero tol­er­ance” pol­icy at the bor­der, ap­par­ently re­lent­ing to the na­tional out­rage and re­vul­sion over the pic­tures of an­guished moth­ers and weep­ing young­sters, some be­hind chain­link fences. It seemed the sep­a­ra­tions would be quickly halted. It seemed that nearly 3,000 chil­dren would be re­united with their par­ents.

“The mis­sion will be ac­com­plished,” Trump’s Sec­re­tary of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Alex Azar wrote Thurs­day in an email ob­tained by The New York Times. “And ev­ery­one should feel sat­is­fied that we are do­ing our part to re­unify the chil­dren with their fam­i­lies.”

But this mis­sion is far from over. And the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion should leave no con­sci­en­tious Amer­i­can feel­ing sat­is­fied.

A chaotic scramble seems to be the best way to de­scribe the sit­u­a­tion as fed­eral agen­cies try to com­ply with a fed­eral judge’s or­der to re­turn chil­dren to their par­ents. The agency tasked with over­see­ing the mi­grant chil­dren, the Of­fice of Refugee Re­set­tle­ment, is strain­ing to set things right, but the process has been un­der­mined by yet an­other fed­eral agency. It ap­pears that the folks from Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion some­how deleted ini­tial records that tracked par­ents and kids un­der a sin­gle “fam­ily iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber” — ap­par­ently, with no thought as to how they would ever be re­united. It’s a scan­dal wor­thy of a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion and a lit­tle soul-search­ing by the Trump sup­port­ers preach­ing law and or­der.

With the clock tick­ing toward the judge’s dead­line, it looks in­creas­ingly likely that the ad­min­is­tra­tion will end up vi­o­lat­ing the court or­der — par­tic­u­larly a pro­vi­sion man­dat­ing ex­pe­dited re­uni­fi­ca­tion for 100 chil­dren un­der the age of 5 by Tues­day. Older kids have to be re­united by July 26.

Yes, some fam­i­lies have been made whole again, and their sto­ries of­fer a har­row­ing glimpse into the cruel con­di­tions our govern­ment is in­flict­ing upon those too young to even un­der­stand. One mother, Olivia Cac­eres, was sep­a­rated from her 14-month-old son af­ter ap­proach­ing a le­gal bor­der cross­ing. When he was re­turned 12 weeks later, PBS re­ported, she found him in a con­di­tion that in any other cir­cum­stance would prompt a child wel­fare in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“When I took off his clothes, he was full of dirt and lice,” Cac­eres tes­ti­fied. “It seemed like they had not bathed him the 85 days he was away from us.”

Per­haps it is time to take the pres­i­dent at his words, as chill­ing as they may be, when he de­scribes th­ese mi­grants as “an­i­mals” who want to “in­fest” our coun­try. His poli­cies have al­lowed the govern­ment to treat them as such.

While the ca­ble news talk­ing heads move on to the next break­ing news, the con­di­tions that in­spired so many to take to the streets last week­end re­main the sta­tus quo for too many par­ents and kids.

The sit­u­a­tion is so dire that peo­ple on the front lines have be­gun to speak out. Nine­teen mem­bers of Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment signed a letter to Sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity Kirst­jen Nielsen ad­vo­cat­ing for the agency to be re­or­ga­nized to con­cen­trate more on crim­i­nals than fam­i­lies. The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Im­mi­gra­tion Judges has pushed back against Trump’s calls to sim­ply ab­ro­gate due process and deny mi­grants a fair trial.

Will Trump lis­ten? Not likely. He ap­par­ently has an­other tar­get in his war against im­mi­grants. No, it’s not a crack­down of the truly dan­ger­ous peo­ple liv­ing il­le­gally within our bor­ders; that pri­or­ity would be wor­thy of praise. His ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pears to be go­ing af­ter im­mi­grants who en­listed in the mil­i­tary with a promised route to cit­i­zen­ship. The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported last week that such re­cruits are be­ing abruptly dis­charged. A new DHS of­fice has been cre­ated with the spe­cific duty of strip­ping im­mi­grants of their nat­u­ral­ized cit­i­zen­ship if er­rors are found on al­readyap­proved ap­pli­ca­tions.

Mean­while, more mi­grants are be­ing de­nied le­gal re­quests for asy­lum. And the White House con­tin­ues to sup­port bills that slash the num­ber of le­gal im­mi­grants.

So, no, the mis­sion to re­pair the dam­age of an in­hu­mane pol­icy isn’t com­plete. And un­less Amer­i­cans con­tinue to protest and re­sist, the pres­i­dent’s other mis­sion — to stem the flow of im­mi­grants, all im­mi­grants, the lifeblood of this na­tion — will keep press­ing ahead at full steam.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.