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“This Can Never Happen Again” — Stories of Children Separated from Family Underscore Trump Administration’s Cruelty and Incompetence

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 A new report from Amnesty International assesses that the Trump Administration’s family separation policy split apart 6,000 family members during the months of April through August — double the number put forward by the government. In addition, a series of powerful articles bring to light the story of individual children traumatized by the Trump Administration’s cruelty, incompetence and indifference.

The New Yorker’s Sarah Stillman reports, “The Five-Year-Old Who Was Detained at the Border and Persuaded to Sign Away Her Rights”:

This powerful piece details the harrowing ordeal of 5-year old Helen and her grandmother Noehmi, asylum-seekers from Honduras separated by the Trump Administration:

Stage two of the crisis unfolded in the national spotlight. As the number of separations soared past two thousand, and their wrenching details surfaced, hundreds of thousands of Americans protested in the streets. Laura Bush said that the practice broke her heart. The American Academy of Pediatrics denounced it as ‘abhorrent,’ noting that the approach could inflict long-term, irrevocable trauma on children. On June 20th, the President issued an executive order purporting to end the practice.

Now stage three has commenced—one in which separations are done quietly, LUPE’s Tania Chavez asserts, and in which reunifications can be mysteriously stymied. According to recent Department of Justice numbers—released because of an ongoing A.C.L.U. lawsuit challenging family separations—a hundred and thirty-six children who fall within the lawsuit’s scope are still in government custody. An uncounted number of separated children in shelters and foster care fall outside the lawsuit’s current purview—including many like Helen, who arrived with a grandparent or other guardian, rather than with a parent. Many such children have been misclassified, in government paperwork, as “unaccompanied minors,” due to a sloppy process that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General recently critiqued. Chavez believes that, through misclassification, many kids have largely disappeared from public view, and from official statistics, with the federal government showing little urgency to hasten reunifications.

CNN’s Catherine Shoichet reports, “ICE Put a 4-year-old on a Plane to Guatemala. Her Dad Found Out 30 Minutes Before She Landed”:

This piece is a reminder how the government seems incapable or unwilling to meet basic standards of decency in resolving the self-created crisis:

Six months after US officials separated them at the border, ICE put a 4-year-old girl on a plane to Guatemala this week so she could be reunited with her father. But there was one major problem, according to advocates who worked on the case: The man didn’t learn his daughter was coming until 30 minutes before her flight was set to land in Guatemala City. He lives eight hours away — too far to get there in time. After half a year apart from her father, the girl would have to spend another night in a shelter alone.

…’After what the US government has already done to these kids, it’s beyond outrageous and inhumane,’ said Lisa Frydman, vice president of regional policy and initiatives for the nonprofit Kids in Need of Defense, which has been working with partners in Central America to facilitate reunifications. Frydman said the case of the 4-year-old and her father, who were separated in April, is exactly the kind of situation advocates feared for months would arise. ‘This is what we’ve been raising and trying to prevent,’ she said. ‘This is a government-inflicted mess. This is totally and completely avoidable.’

And as we highlighted earlier this week, Vivian Yee and Miriam Jordan’s New York Times story, “Migrant Children in Search of Justice: A 2-Year-Old’s Day in Immigration Court”

This piece describes the court appearance of Jacqueline Davila, a toddler from Honduras, taken from her grandmother as part of the Trump administration’s unresolved family separation crisis:

Her feet stuck out from the seat in small gray sneakers, her legs too short to dangle. Her fists were stuffed under her knees. As soon as the caseworker who had sat her there turned to go, she let out a whimper that rose to a thin howl, her crumpled face a bursting dam.

Meanwhile, 13,000 additional children are being detained in a tent city in Tornillo, Texas, many moved secretly in the middle of the night. The number of detained kids is up “fivefold” since last year and the average length of time detained children spend in custody has jumped from 34 days to 59 days over the past year, in large part because the Trump Administration is intimidating and arresting sponsors — many of them undocumented — who previously came forward to sponsor their loved ones and are now too scared to do so. As the Washington Post recently editorialized, this administration is treating vulnerable children with “cavalier cruelty” as it carries “out a crusade against immigrants, a policy that diminishes the nation.”

The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

We are a better people and country than the cruelty this administration has inflicted on  toddlers and children. Congress needs to hold accountable those responsible for creating and implementing these monstrous policies. As is now clear by willful Republican neglect, the only way that will happen is if we elect a new Congress.

The American people are ready for bold solutions. We need a fair process for immigrant children and their families that recognizes the violence they have fled and the merits of their refugee claims. More broadly, we need immigration reform that puts established residents of our country on the road to permanent status and citizenship. Given the wind that will be at their backs, a newly-elected Congress should act with the conviction and confidence.