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Will Bunch for Philadelphia Inquirer: “If Team Trump can’t reunite border families, someone needs to go to jail”

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In a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Will Bunch unsparingly criticizes the Trump administration for its lack of compassion, its lack of competency, and the lack of accountability for the officials responsible for the cruel and continuing separation of kids from their parents.

Below are key excerpts from Bunch’s piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The travesty of the Trump administration’s family separation policy has not withstood the sunlight of scrutiny. It has led to massively high levels of public opposition, noisy protests and global condemnation of one of the more shameful episodes in American history. Crucially, it has also been found in violation of the law.

Forty days ago, a federal judge in San Diego named Dana Sabraw (for what it’s worth, a George W. Bush appointee) ordered the Trump administration, which had already issued a vague executive order to undo its human rights abuses and end the family separation policy, to speed things up on reuniting detained kids with their mothers and fathers.

Sabraw, who correctly summed up the fiasco as “a chaotic circumstance of the Government’s own making,” added that “the government has no system in place to keep track of, provide effective communication with, and promptly produce alien children. The unfortunate reality is that under the present system migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.” He gave the Trump administration two weeks to reunite families with kids under 5, and 30 days for all 2,300 kids in federal custody who’d been removed from their parents.

Trump’s government has failed, and failed badly. It’s been 10 days since the deadline, and yet an alarming number of children — 572 in all — are still in these grim detention centers or with foster parents, kept apart from their families amid dimming hope they will be reunited any time soon. Many of the parents have been deported to Guatemala, Honduras and other nations of origin, with their kids still in the American gulag. As a sign of its impotency, the U.S. government that once put human beings on the moon has actually begged the non governmental agency that’s suing it, the ACLU, for help in finding the parents of children in their custody.


They knew what they were doing — that literally thousands of children, some of them infants and toddlers, would be forever scarred by how they were treated, with the official stamp of the American government — and they did it anyway. This is “never again”-type stuff, done in our name, and somebody needs to be held accountable.

Of course, accountability isn’t exactly our thing in the United States of America — at least not when the rich or the powerful are involved. This is, after all, a nation where you can lie repeatedly, even in your State of the Union address when the cameras are rolling, to make a fake case for a war that killed tens of thousands of people, many of them innocent civilians, and still get a medal draped around your neck.

But the Trump administration is, at this point, openly defying an order from a federal judge. I know that I, as a journalist, would likely be jailed if a judge ordered me to turn over notes or publicly identify a source and I refused (as happened in cases like this and this). Most everyday citizens would be jailed for contempt of court for disobeying a judge. And at this point has anyone shown more contempt for the legal system — let alone basic decency — than high-level Trump administration officials?


The idea that family reunification isn’t doable is absurd. We are a society, after all, that just moved heaven and earth to save 12 teenage boys and their soccer coach from a flooded, two-mile cave on the other side of the world. But it’s also more than that. It’s about right and wrong, and contempt for the rule of law.

A country that didn’t think twice about ruining the lives of innocent migrant children shouldn’t think twice about legal sanctions for those responsible for such an unmoral and unlawful policy. Reunite the families now. Or. Lock. Them. Up.