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20 Days Past Court-Imposed Reunification Deadline, the Lack of Accountability on Family Separation is Staggering

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We are now 20 days past the court-ordered deadline for reunifying children ripped from their parents by the Trump administration. Here are reminders why this crisis remains an urgent national priority that demands accountability:

  • More than 550 children remain separated and the Trump administration continues to drag its feet; the pace of reunifications has slowed to a trickle.
  • The lack of accountability from the White House and executive branch leaders remains staggering. The Trump administration leaders responsible, such as DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and White House Advisor Stephen Miller, have adopted a strategy of never talking about the crisis. They seem to believe that by ducking any semblance of ownership, the story will fade and they can abdicate their basic duty to resolve the crisis they created. Rubbish. Secretary Nielsen should resign and the administration should mobilize to reunite kids with parents with at least as much energy and focus as they devoted to separating them.
  • Where is Congress? The legislative branch has been mostly absent in providing oversight and accountability regarding this ongoing moral travesty. The Senate has held all of one hearing. Democrats — in the minority for now — continue to be aggressive. This week, 17 Democratic Senators issued a powerful letter demanding the reunification of all immigrant families. Many have called for Nielsen to resign. All have demanded that the Trump administration fix the crisis. Unfortunately, the vast majority of their colleagues across the aisle have been missing in action. While there are occasional hints of bipartisanship in addressing related issues — see the new report from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigations subcommittee about insufficient oversight of unaccompanied minors in federal custody — the congressional response and accountability towards what amounts to state-sanctioned child abuse remains wildly insufficient given the scale of the ongoing moral travesty.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

With this President, this administration and this Congress, the buck stops anywhere but with the architects, enablers and defenders of the Trump administration’s monstrous family separation policy. Twenty days after the court’s deadline, we have more than 550 kids still alone, still separated from their parents and still treated with indifference by our government. Most of the credit for the families that have been reunified goes to the ACLU, Judge Sabraw and the tireless and committed non-governmental actors and advocates who have stepped up.  

In a democracy, public officials are accountable to the taxpayers who pay their salaries and their representatives elected to serve them in Congress. But at the present moment, the Trump administration is shielded from accountability by a Republican Congress. In particular, the irresponsibility, mendacity and cruelty of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen remains staggering. She should resign her position immediately. If this Congress won’t fulfill its duties, then the American people will have to replace it with one that will.