After separating nearly 3,000 kids from their parents, a federal judge stepped in and ordered the Trump administration to reunite them. Nearly two weeks after the court-ordered deadline, 572 children remain traumatized, in federal custody and with little evidence the administration is interested in reuniting them. For more than 400 of the children, the Trump administration callously deported their parents to Central América. It seems that most of the deported parents were tricked by ICE into waiving their rights to apply for asylum in America, signing documents presented to them as the way to reunite with their kids. At last Friday’s status conference, the government had the audacity to claim that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other NGOs should take responsibility for finding parents.
Is the Trump administration determined to orphan hundreds of kids they seized from parents? Tragically, it seems so.
As the federal judge, the George W. Bush-appointed Dana Sabraw, said at the recent status conference: “All of this is the result of the government’s separation and then inability and failure to track and reunited. And the reality is that for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanently orphaned child and that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration.”
Tuesday’s Washington Post editorial board lays out how the administration did not collect information that would be useful at this key moment: “A measure of the administration’s callous recklessness is that officials often failed to collect contact information for deported mothers and fathers — cellphone numbers, addresses — that could facilitate reunions with their children. In some cases, government forms list deportees’ addresses in Central America as “calle sin nombre” — street without a name. Very useful.”
Mr. Sabraw ordered the administration to appoint an individual to oversee what will be the painstaking process of tracking down deported parents. In the meantime, administration lawyers might take a refresher course on the meaning of accountability and personal responsibility. Of course, ultimate responsibility lies with administration leaders who cared so little for the human beings who are now paying such a high price.
The ACLU’s Lee Gelernt, on MSNBC on Monday night, made it clear that even when the Trump administration does have information that would be useful in tracking down deported parents, the government is dragging their feet: “Now it turns out that the government has been sitting on potentially many, many phone numbers. We could have been calling these parents for the last weeks or months and they’re not turning over the information. And they have – the judge basically said, what are you doing? Get a plan, turn over information to the ACLU, they can try and help you. They can’t help you without the information, but you, the government, also need to take steps to find these parents. It was stunning, the position the government took.”
“This is unacceptable,” stated Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “The government took children from their loving parents, who had risked their own lives to try to ensure their children’s safety. Now, with hundreds of kids still separated, and 11 days following the deadline for reunification, we learn the Trump administration has been withholding invaluable information. Is the federal government determined to orphan these kids whose lives and families they ripped apart? Does the cruelty and cynicism have any limits at all? Trump and his team have already orphaned America from our founding values. In a self-respecting and democratic society, child kidnapping and child abuse can never be normalized as a government program. We simply cannot let them, in our name and with our tax dollars, get away with these crimes.”