Monday, July 13, 2020

Never Forget Child Separation, Trump’s Most Abominable Act (by Prof. Ediberto Roman and Joshua Killingsworth)


On June 26, a federal court demanded Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) free children from custody in response to health concerns at their facilities. Judge Dolly M. Gee found ICE had failed “at the basics,” such as keeping these children in “safe and sanitary” living conditions during a time when COVID-19 was devastating the country.

Journalist Rachel Maddow described the detention of children as the offense “where multiple Trump officials are most likely to spend eternity in cosmic penance and damnation. Trump’s family separation policy is without question his most abominable act. While Trump targeted immigrants from the very first day he ran for office, describing them as drug dealers and rapists, few realize President Trump has actually targeted children.

In May 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced the “zero tolerance policy,” whereby every adult who improperly entered the country would be prosecuted and remain in custody. If the adult migrant or asylum-seeker was with a child, the child would be separated. In the first two months of zero tolerance, this separated at least 2,000 children from their parents. In the first year of this heartless program, at least seven children died in U.S. custody. The administration knew of the devastating psychological effects of family separation, but they implemented it anyway.

The wrongs of the family separation are simply unfathomable. Shockingly, recent reports document thousands of migrant children sexually abused while in U.S. Custody. No decent human being should believe such damnable acts could ever happen, but HHS documents themselves, as well as U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch, confirm these wrongs occurred.

On June 20, 2018, after both domestic and worldwide condemnation, President Trump signed an executive order which purportedly stopped future family separation. A week later a court mandated its end.

But in truth, little changed. Not being able to keep these children locked up by themselves, the Trump administration unsuccessfully sought permission to detain children alongside their parents. Shortly thereafter, the Trump Administration admitted over 2,500 children remained separated after the executive order ending the program. A year after the end of the program, the administration admitted children were still being separated. Shockingly, government officials further admitted it could take two years to reunite thousands of children.

Last month’s court decision only confirms what we already knew. The federal government’s practice here is not only heartless, hateful, and evil, the Trump administration never had “concern for the particular vulnerability of minors.” The tragedy here will go down in history as among our darkest days, and may take generations, if ever, to repair the wrongs done to these beautiful children.

When our school children are taught of the wrongs of Japanese internment, and the Native American Americanization movement (where children were separated as well), some may believe such wrongs occurred in a less-enlightened era. We will likely tell ourselves we are far more advanced today. Yet, imagine seeking asylum with your child at the border, and witnessing her ripped from your arms? Imagine not knowing where she is? Imagine learning your child was abused, or died? This is not a Stephen King horror film — it’s Trump’s America.


This article originally appeared on July 12, 2020 at the Orlando Sentinel. Read it here.

Ediberto Román is a law professor and nationally acclaimed constitutional law, immigration, and critical theory scholar at Florida International University. He edits NYU Press Series, “Citizenship and Migration in the Americas.”

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