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The Cruelty is the Point: Trump Administration Set to Restart Family Separations

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“Trump is simply inflicting cruelty on children because he wants to and because nobody is stopping him.”


It now seems almost inevitable that the Trump administration will restart family separations by the end of this week. The administration is gearing up to force parents stuck in family detention facilities to make an impossible choice: between having their children ripped from them with uncertain prospects for reunification or staying together as a family unit, but inside COVID-wracked family detention facilities.

As NBC News reports in a piece titled, “Judge delays ruling on ICE detention, meaning migrant parents and kids could be separated Friday:”

A federal judge said Monday he will not rule until the middle of next week on whether migrant parents detained by ICE in family detention centers should be released, meaning 335 children and parents now held there could begin to be separated from each other on Friday … That means it’s possible that the children held in the ICE family residential centers could begin being released on Friday and thus separated from their detained parents.

Family detention and other ICE detention facilities are “on fire” due to COVID-19, as Judge Dolly Gee said in her ruling calling for the children to be released. More than a third of the children in family detention have been held more than 300 days. Yet despite the urgent imperatives to save lives and keep families together, the Trump administration has made clear it has no plans to release families.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: 

The Trump administration is set to replay the systematic and forced separation of children from their parents – one of the darkest chapters of this or any other presidency.  Family separation managed to shock America’s conscience once and should again. 

The administration doesn’t care about the depravity of forcing parents into the impossible ‘Sophie’s Choice’ of either seeing their kids ripped from them or staying with them inside detention facilities that risk their childrens’ lives because they are ‘on fire’ with COVID-19. Trump and his Republican enablers don’t care that they are set to knowingly inflict incalculable trauma – again – on children separated from their parents. The cruelty is the point.

And the cruelty is a choice being made by this administration. There is no valid reason to put these families in detention in the first place when there are effective alternatives and willing sponsors to make sure they comply with the terms of their asylum claims. There are effective ways to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 that are not being utilized in these family detention facilities. Therefore, there is a simple remedy to protect children from infection and honor the sanctity of these families and reduce the trauma, but the President is choosing cruelty instead. Trump is simply inflicting cruelty on children because he wants to and because nobody is stopping him.


  • See here for a detailed set of polling and electoral examples offering reminders why family separation is politically toxic for Republicans