Faced with rare, universal condemnation, administration officials trotted Donald Trump into the Oval Office to sign an executive order purporting to end the state-sanctioned kidnapping of children from parents at the southern border (by instead locking them up together). But it was a public relations stunt, because months after that executive order, more than 100 children are still separated and under U.S. custody.
We also know it was a stunt because a recent ProPublica investigation found that U.S. officials have since torn apart at least 16 other families, some under dubious claims that the parents are gang-affiliated. CNN now reports that 81 children and 76 adults have been separated since Trump’s executive order, allegedly “due to criminal activity or gang affiliation by the adults.”
But, as in ProPublica’s investigation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “provided no evidence” to support their claims, and federal immigration agents have a long, documented history of falsely accusing immigrants of gang membership in order to deport them. In one instance described by ProPublica, officials tore apart a father and son who had been escaping gang violence and then accused the dad himself of being a gang member.
“When Julio arrived at the border with his son, he had a letter from a lawyer in El Salvador explaining the pair’s history of being targeted and harassed by gangs. Julio also had with him sworn statements from his former employer vouching for his character and stating he was not involved in any gang activity.” But Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “declined to provide the evidence the agency had to support the allegation,” the investigation found, “saying only that it was ‘law enforcement sensitive.’ Nor would she say why CBP believed Julio was a danger to his child.”
The well-being of children should be the foremost concern here, but this administration has shown it does not operate in good faith. We know this because the administration continues to have children under U.S. custody, in blatant violation of a court order. Some kids are still in custody because the administration so carelessly deported their parents and now can’t find them. Others are in custody because their deported parents designated a sponsor here but officials are slow-walking those reunifications.
Today, Thursday, Dec. 6, marks 133 days since a federal judge’s reunification deadline. Family separation remains a crisis.