My husband told me about this story several days ago. Of course, I do care. It is abominable what the US border policies have done in separating children from their natural parents. You can read the transcript at this LINK> NPR Investigation reveals how government bureaucracy failed to stop family separations with Ari Shapiro talking to The Atlantic immigration reporter Caitlin Dickerson. The Atlantic also has the story, though I am not a subscriber and have used up all of my “free” article allowance. You can access that at this LINK> The Secret History of Family Separation or under this headline – “We Need To Take Away Children: The Secret History Of The U.S. Government’s Family Separation Policy.”
The Trump administration was known for immigration policies that were chaotic and extreme, yet even by that standard, family separation was in its own category. Kids as young as infants were removed from their parents at the border, more than 5,500 children total. Hundreds are still not reunited. Caitlin Dickerson chronicled those policies in real time, first for The New York Times and now for The Atlantic. And her latest cover story for The Atlantic is an exhaustive investigation into how the family separation policy came about.
Caitlin Dickerson says, “The Trump administration . . . was very focused on trying to curtail immigration, both illegal immigration, as well as asylum seeking. The reason this exhaustive an account was necessary was because it’s the most extreme implementation of consequences. And some families, hundreds of them, still have not been reunited today.” She goes on to say, “. . . hawks, like Stephen Miller, were going to push for these really aggressive policies. But it’s actually the bureaucrats, the career experts who went along with zero tolerance and family separations who are really important. They told me they were very concerned about separating families, but they stayed quiet. And when I asked why, they said, well, it wasn’t strategic to speak up in these meetings or, you know, I couldn’t alienate myself before Stephen Miller, given how much power he had in the administration. They figured someone else would intervene, and because of that, this policy was put into place.”
Dickerson goes on to say that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wishes she had not signed the memo authorizing family separations. She didn’t have good information when she made this decision. Career immigration officials said we have systems and processes in place to ensure it’s going to be implemented smoothly. And that wasn’t true. Based on their advice, she made that decision.
Sadly, there is still the desire by some former Trump administration officials to see this policy implemented again in the future. The separation trauma is immensely destructive for the kids who were in the very early stages of development and this is going to be a lifelong story for them.
I did some research and found two other articles – LINK> PolitiFact noted in February 2021 that the Biden administration had rescinded the Trump-era policy that led to systematic family separations and that he had established a task force to reunite families that were separated under the Trump administration.
However, a LINK> Vera.org piece noted – Children Are Still Being Separated from Their Families at the Border. This one is dated June 23, 2022 written by Erica Bryant. She makes the point that – “A better system would place Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) officials at the border to immediately evaluate family relationships. This should be done in trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate settings, rather than in jail-like holding centers. Medical and mental health services that children might need should also be available on site. If ORR confirms the family relationship and rules out risks of trafficking and other immediate dangers to the child, children should be released with their relatives immediately.”