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Reminders of What’s Real on Trump’s Immigration Failures: Deplorable Detention Conditions for Children; Continued Family Separations; Pervasive Fear Among Families

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When it comes to immigration policy, sometimes we all need to close Twitter and ignore Trump’s ongoing bluster, threats, and pronouncements; skip past the White House palace intrigue stories about leaks and infighting; and stay focused on what’s real and happening in our name – the Trump team’s ongoing failure to responsibly deal with the humanitarian and refugee crisis they helped create and the ongoing toll and trauma on thousands of children and families, including ongoing family separation and deplorable detention conditions for migrant children and families.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: “Trump’s policies are failing us and endangering children and families in our care. As a nation, we must insist that children in our care are fed, bathed, given medical care and housed under humane conditions and none of those basic, bottomline functions are happening under this President and his team. As they ask Congress for more and more money to continue their failed policies, the American people are rightly outraged to see what is happening with the money the Trump administration already has. Rather than Tweeting and asking courts to reduce the standards under which children are held, the President should be immediately taking steps to address the permanent damage the trauma and neglect their policies are inflicting on children and families.” 

See below for three reminders of what’s real amidst the endless noise – the deplorable conditions facing migrant children; Trump’s ongoing family separations; and the pervasive fear among immigrant families that Trump is still planning to tee up family separation 2.0 on a massive scale: 

The Trump Administration tries to blame Democrats for children being housed in deplorable conditions ignoring the fact that Trump’s policy failures and neglect have made things much worse. Read the interview between Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker and Willamette University law professor Warren Binford, one of the lawyers allowed to visit detention facilities in Texas as part of the Flores settlement, for a reminder what’s happening in our name – deplorable conditions, overcrowded facilities, and small children being forced to provide basic care and comfort to smaller children who are not even their siblings.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration lawyers are arguing that they don’t need to supply basic sanitary products, such as soap and toothbrushes, to children in detention facilities (watch MSNBC’s Chris Hayes’ report on the subject here). And President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are passing the buck, trying to blame Democrats in Congress (see here) instead of their own decisions and inability to address the humanitarian and refugee crisis with anything other than harsh, deterrence-only policies that are failing catastrophically. Congress has been appropriating money and proposing realistic solutions – the problem is the larger failure of Trump’s deterrence-only approach.

The Trump Administration continues to lie about family separations (which still continue under their watch): Trump’s recent audaciously false claim that he reunited the families that the Obama administration separated fits neatly alongside other administration attempts to blame Democrats for the toll of their own policies. These lies also perpetuate the notion that family separation is a policy in the rearview mirror when, in fact, it continues under the Trump team’s watch. 

As Lomi Kriel and Dug Begley of the Houston Chronicle explain in a story titled, “Trump administration still separating hundreds of migrant children at the border through often questionable claims of danger,” more than “700 children were taken from their parents or, in a few cases, from other relatives between June 2018 and May 2019, according to the most recent data the government provided to the American Civil Liberties Union in the ongoing federal court case overseeing family separations … ‘In the last few months these types of separations have risen drastically,’ said Lee Gelernt, lead lawyer for the ACLU. ‘The government is trying to drive a truck through what was supposed to be a very narrow exception.’”

The Trump team is teeing up family separation 2.0 and purposefully sowing fear throughout the country. Although Trump’s mass-deportation threat and the planned ICE operations in 10 cities may be delayed by two weeks, per presidential Twitter announcement, we don’t know for certain what will happen next. However, we do know a few related things with certainty: 

One, that family separations would be an inextricable part of this planned ICE enforcement operation. As the Washington Post reported last week, “The family arrest plan has been considered even more sensitive than a typical operation because children are involved, and Homeland Security officials retain significant concerns that families will be inadvertently separated by the operation, especially because parents in some households have deportation orders but their children — some of whom are U.S. citizens — might not. Should adults be arrested without their children because they are at school, day care, summer camp or a friend’s house, it is possible parents could be deported while their children are left behind.”

Two, the widespread fear sowed by the planned ICE operations is by design – a feature, not a bug. Across the country and especially in the 10 cities supposedly set for ICE raids, mobilization by on-the-ground allies of the immigrant community was strong, but so was the pervasive sense of fear. These developments echo the observation of Adam Serwer of The Atlantic, who wrote last year at this time about family separation, “The policy’s cruelty is its purpose: By inflicting irreparable trauma on children and their families, the administration intends to persuade those looking to America for a better life to stay home…To harden oneself against the cries of children is no simple task. It requires a coldness to suffering that will not be easily thawed. The scars it inflicts on American civic culture will not heal quickly, and they will never completely fade.”