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As ICE separates children from parents at the border, public outrage grows

How does one “lose” almost 1,500 children?

Last month, Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of the administration for children and families (ACF), announced at a Senate hearing that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement — which is to say, an office he oversees — was “unable to determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,475 children between October and December.”

As Mother Jones reports:

The Trump administration is seeking to criminally prosecute everyone who crosses the US-Mexico border, including parents. The policy is likely to separate thousands of families who arrive at the border by placing parents into the criminal justice system. Without their parents, children will be placed into the custody of ORR.

In March, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Trump administration for forcibly removing young children from their parents who are awaiting asylum hearings. The class action lawsuit “claims the practice by government agencies of separating young children from their families violates the Due Process Clause and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The lawsuit represents a proposed class of ‘hundreds of individuals whose minor children have already been taken from them.’”

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted excerpts from the lawsuit on Friday, pointing to one case in particular — a mother who said she has not seen her 18-month-old son since he was taken from her a month before — “a moral abomination, and a national shame.” Friday evening, Hayes dedicated a segment of “All In” to what he called Trump’s “despicable” policy and its affect on families who come to the United States seeking asylum — so, as Hayes points out, “not trying to sneak in.”

“Kids as young as nine years old, seven years old — cases of children as young as 18 months — ripped out of the arms of their mother and putting those children into government-run shelters for a very specific reason: To punish the immigrants.”

Earlier this month, White House chief of staff John Kelly was asked by NPR about the practice of arresting mothers who cross the border illegally with their children, which was then a recent proposal by attorney general Jeff Sessions. Unlike President Donald Trump, who since the earliest days of his campaign has spoken about immigrants with vitriol, Kelly told NPR that “the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS-13. Some of them are not.”

But Kelly went on to say that these immigrants would struggle to “assimilate” due to lack of language skills. “A big name of the game is deterrence,” he said. The interview went on:

Family separation stands as a pretty tough deterrent.

It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers.

Even though people say that’s cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children?

I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.

Believe it or not, the incredibly reassuring and specific language deployed by Kelly — “into foster care or whatever” — did not stir confidence among those who considered this practice, to borrow NPR’s phrasing, “cruel and heartless.”

Late Friday night, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a frequent critic of the Trump administration, aimed a tweet about this policy at first lady Melania Trump, referencing her Be Best initiative, which focuses on the “social, emotional, and physical health” of children, a campaign with “three pillars,” the first of which is children’s “well-being.”

This morning, President Trump responded to the latest wave of pushback against his immigration policy with a tweet that claimed it was Democrats, not the president himself, responsible for this “horrible law” and featured a number of hallmarks of a classic Trump tweet: Arbitrary capitalization, a reference to the border wall, abuse of the caps lock key, and racially-charged language. (MS-13 are “thugs,” but the neo-Nazis who marched on Charlottesville were some “very fine people.” Interesting!)


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