Every day under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is choosing to separate children from their parents who are charged with misdemeanors in mass hearings. Despite claims by the administration to the contrary, the separation of families could stop today if the Attorney General and DHS chose to end the policy. The reason why they chose to keep this policy? To deter other refugees from seeking asylum in the United States.
By now, there have been real horror stories: parents hearing their children screaming in the next room; a man who committed suicide when his three-year-old was taken from him; children kept in what Oregon senator Jeff Merkley described as a “dog kennel”; a woman being told by a border patrol agent: “You will never see your children again. Families don’t exist here. You won’t have a family any more.” - the Guardian
ProPublica has obtained audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, in which children can be heard wailing as an agent jokes, “We have an orchestra here.” Enough of these stories have come out that any questions of them being isolated incidents have been put to rest. These are not actions by rogue agents. They are systematic, and they come straight from the top. Indeed, attorney general Jeff Sessions has acknowledged as much, announcing in May a policy which had already been in practice for much of the past year.
As reported by the Guardian, the trauma caused by these separations for parents and their children is not an unfortunate byproduct of a necessary legal process; it is the whole point. It is a punishment designed to be as grotesque as possible in order to scare other migrants. The use of family separation as a migration deterrent was discussed a year ago by Department of Homeland Security officials before it was formally adopted; since then, the administration has bragged that the separations have led to a drop in border crossings. This is, in fact, not true, based on DHS’s own numbers, as Vox’s Dara Lind has pointed out.
In the past few days, there has been significant pushback from many high profile individuals including members of Congress, faith leaders, former First Ladies of the United States, and celebrities. Yet, President Trump and his administration has remained defiant. Until now.
On June 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that ends the administration’s policy of separating migrant families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, abandoning the president’s previous stance that only Congress can fix the problem. Read the Executive Order here.
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