In the Trump administration's seemingly endless march of abuses against decency, it's important not to forget what still looms above all else: the calculated separation of migrant families at the southern border in 2017 and 2018. This was the intentional, government-sponsored psychological torture of children, because their parents committed a nonviolent misdemeanor on a legal par with a speeding ticket. Not since Japanese internment during World War II has America's government pursued a policy so shamefully un-American.
And it isn't over. A new court filing reveals that, even now, the parents of more than 500 of those kids still cannot be located. Even if there weren't numerous other reasons for voters to deny President Donald Trump a second term, this one issue should be enough.
Trump campaigned in 2016 on a xenophobic platform that falsely painted undocumented immigration as a dire threat to America. A few months after taking office, Trump and his white nationalist immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, quietly implemented a "zero tolerance" policy in which families caught trying to cross the border were automatically separated. Adults were routed for prosecution, and children were sent to foster care or temporary government facilities where they were kept in chain-link enclosures. Cages, essentially.
The public wasn't told of the policy for months. When it was finally made public, prompting widespread outrage, the White House claimed the same policy was in place under the Obama and Bush administrations. This was a lie; the government previously separated families only when the children were in danger, not as a means of terrorizing parents to send a message to other parents contemplating migration.
This brutal approach to deterrence resulted in the removal of more than 4,000 kids from their parents — though the exact number remains unknown. That's because the administration, having settled on a policy of deliberate cruelty, then carried it out with astonishing incompetence. The resulting flurry of litigation has revealed there was no process in place for returning the kids to their families, that the government lost children in the system, and that officials can't even say exactly how many were taken.
New court filings allege that more than two years after the supposed end of this outrage, 545 of these stolen kids (let's call it what it is) still haven't been reunited with their families — because no one can find their families. This shouldn't be surprising, since the administration deported many of those parents without their children.
About 60 of those kids were under age 5 when first taken. They remain in America today, separated from their families, possibly forever, because this president thought it urgent to punish their parents for seeking better lives for their children. An electoral defeat for Trump next month won't end their plight, but it would be the first step toward the restoration of American decency.
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