Of all the cynical policies put in place by the Trump administration, none is crueler than its use of migrant children as weapons in a war against immigrants — documented, undocumented, asylum seekers and yes, even some criminals.
Be it the Dreamers (young adults brought to this country as children by parents without documentation and allowed to stay and work, go to school and apply for citizenship), the 10,000 or so undocumented minors who came to this country unaccompanied and are being housed in large tent cities and similar facilities, or the 2,600 children separated from their parents at the border under the “zero-tolerance” policy initiated by the administration in April, it is all part and parcel of Trump’s most unseemly abuse of power.
A “nation of immigrants,’’ as the United States used to proudly call itself, now uses the most vulnerable of those — children — to deter those seeking asylum from legitimate threats in their homeland from coming here or to entrap and arrest family or friends in the immigrant community who might come forward to help children being “detained.”
Forget what this display of fear and bigotry as immigration policy has done to the reputation of the United States. That has already been seriously damaged and will take years, if we’re lucky, to repair. The real damage has been and continues to be done to the children, especially the young ones, and parents who have been traumatized by the "zero-tolerance” separation policy initiated by Trump.
Federal courts ordered the practice stopped and the children reunited with their parents. Trump signed an order June 20 to end the policy and a week later a federal judge ordered the children to be reunited with their families within 30 days.
That’s a lot of orders. How’s that going? Last week, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee said that of 2,654 children separated from their parents under the policy, 104 still waited as of Oct. 5 to be reunited.
“How long is too long to detain a child?” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., a committee member, asked Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He was referring to the 10,000 unaccompanied children being detained for months in government-contracted facilities, but it also applies to the “zero-tolerance” children.
Nielsen said her agency does not detain children, but rather that the Department of Health and Human Services does. She said sometimes it takes longer to find relatives or sponsors in the United States to receive the children. She did not add that it is especially difficult when immigration authorities use the children as lures to arrest undocumented immigrants by, for example, requiring fingerprinting of potential sponsors or by denying children access to government food programs.
Having been passed the buck from Homeland Security, the Health and Human Services Department issued a statement saying the administration is enforcing the law to address a "crisis at the border." It added, “That is why HHS joins the president in calling on Congress to reform this broken system."
Baloney. Trump’s solution is to build a wall. A hypocritical, Trump-obedient Congress broke the system. And the children suffer.