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