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Sen. Cornyn Could Act to End the Trump Administration’s “Gratuitous Act of Cruelty” on Vulnerable Migrant Children

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Senator Cornyn is the President’s key wingman, unwilling to challenge Trump, even over the treatment of vulnerable children.

As we’ve been highlighting (here, here and here) , the Trump administration has been using the cover of the elecpandemic to advance a host of nativist policies they have long pursued but had been previously unable to enact. This includes cruel and exploitative policies towards children, such as rushing the deportation of migrant children back to danger without due process, and reinstituting family separations via a horrific “Sophie’s Choice” that ICE has presented to families in their care.

This month, in each of the three US family detention facilities – two of which are in Texas – ICE personnel approached families with children asking them either to agree to have their children taken away or to have the children remain with the family in indefinite detention. Given these two dreadful options, families uniformly opted to stay together. ICE, which is under a court order to release children, is using this forced choice as a justification to keep the children in detention beyond the court mandated limit.

ICE, like President Trump and his chief anti-immigrant operative, Stephen Miller, know that there is scant oversight and few repercussions for brazenly violating the rights of these children, precisely because the US Senate is controlled by key allies like Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

According to Mario Carillo, the Texas-based Director of Campaigns for America’s Voice:

Sen. Cornyn knows that children being held in Texas are being mistreated, yet, as is generally the case, he is silent. As a public official, it is his obligation to speak up when child abuse is alleged and yet he not only looks the other way, he green lights every Trump measure of cruelty to migrant children. Whether it is in Texas detention facilities where coronavirus is a very real and present danger or at the Texas border with Mexico which is fraught with danger and deprivation, the choice the government is presenting to parents is stark: remain together and face the danger as a family or spare the children by turning them over to strangers perhaps to never see them again.

None of these policies are mandated by the law, so ICE and other government officials are making a choice to treat families with children harshly. These policies rely on people in positions of oversight and power to do nothing to stop it. It should be clear to everyone at this point that Sen. Cornyn is willing to go along with anything Trump, Stephen Miller or ICE inflict on migrant families and children and that no amount of cruelty or immorality will move him to challenge the President. Meanwhile, children and families are suffering right here in Texas and Sen. Cornyn does nothing.

As an editorial in the Washington Post, Migrant children are still confined and vulnerable. It’s a gratuitous act of cruelty,” captures:

Many Americans may have assumed that the administration, scalded by its last experiment with separating migrant children from their families, would not again broach that subject. But it did. …hundreds of migrant minors detained with their families remain at risk of contracting the virus. At this point, their continuing confinement seems a gratuitous act of cruelty.

An op-ed in The Hill, “Stop expelling and separating immigrant children and parents during COVID,” reminds us of the willful trauma our government is inflicting on children. The reflection is by Dr. Suzan Song, a Harvard- and Stanford-trained physician, who is currently Division Director of Child, Adolescent & Family Psychiatry at George Washington University and a humanitarian protection adviser. Dr. Song writes:

Children have traumatic options when they come to our border. They can (1) be quickly expelled to countries with high rates of child trafficking and violence, where they may or may not have an adult to care for them; (2) kept in a U.S. sponsored shelter but then awoken at all hours and flown out of the country without the family being aware; (3) can be separated (even if infants or toddlers) if their parents relinquish custody; or (4) can remain indefinitely detained with their families during the pandemic, despite a ruling that found insufficient measures to protect children and families in detention from COVID-19.

All of these ‘options’ are abusive to children. As a child/adolescent psychiatrist and humanitarian protection adviser, I’ve worked for over a decade with unaccompanied children and their families. The government is creating an allostatic load of stress that can accumulate and cause irreparable physical and mental health damage to children.