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The Trump Administration’s “Gratuitous Act of Cruelty”

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As we’ve been highlighting, the Trump administration has been using the cover of the pandemic 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.”

As the nation continues to reel from the pandemic, two opinion pieces from over the weekend remind us how abhorrent it is for the Trump administration to be willfully inflicting even more pain and suffering at this dangerous moment. We cannot allow Trump and Stephen Miller’s “gratuitous cruelty” toward children to be normalized.

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.

The following is a statement from Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

At the same time President Trump is incapable of acknowledging the deaths of 100,000 Americans due to the pandemic and his failed leadership in the midst of a national crisis, he is inflicting new suffering and trauma on some of the most vulnerable children on the planet. It’s a near-boundless capacity for cruelty and callousness toward ‘the other’ that is the flip side of Trump’s general disregard for the lives and sacrifices of the 100,000+ Americans dead and those dying because of the coronavirus. 

Trump and his henchman Stephen Miller are trying to wear us down and normalize their inhumanity and moral cowardice. They also want to distract us from their malice and incompetence by setting dumpster fires everywhere in the hope that the press and the public will shift their attention. But we cannot let them. As a country and as a people, we are better than our president.