J. Michel (aka: Mitch) Carriere / Flickr 026 365 Lost...
J. Michel (aka: Mitch) Carriere / Flickr

Get ready for a new round of horror and nausea over the Trump administration’s policy of tearing children from their parents at the border. In line with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s insistence that these families are only “posing as families,” the administration isn’t bothering to keep track of which child arrived with which adult. We’ve already seen cases of parents deported while their children remain in the United States … somewhere. And, the New Yorker’s Jonathan Blitzer reports, those aren’t isolated instances. The Trump administration has no plans to reunite children and parents after it separates them.

Erik Hanshew, a federal public defender in El Paso, told me that the problems begin at the moment of arrest. “Our client gets arrested with his or her child out in the field. Sometimes they go together at the initial processing, sometimes they get separated right then and there for separate processing,” he said. “When we ask the Border Patrol agents at detention hearings a few days after physical arrest about the information they’ve obtained in their investigation, they tell us that the only thing they know is that the person arrested was with a kid. They don’t seem to know gender, age, or name.”

Jennifer Podkul, who is the policy director of Kids in Need of Defense, told me that advocates are trying to piece together information about the whereabouts of children based on the federal charging documents used in the parent’s immigration case. “You can try to figure out where and when the child was apprehended based on that,” she said. “But where the child is being held often has nothing to do with where she and her parent were arrested. The kids get moved around to different facilities.”

Without advocates like these, families have almost no chance of finding their stolen children—Kids in Need of Defense’s Emily Kephart told Blitzer that “I have a master’s degree and I’m fluent in English. And it takes me days to figure these cases out.” An Office of Refugee Resettlement hotline has 30-minute hold times, the federal agencies responsible for separating and detaining the family members don’t coordinate with each other and the administration has no interest in reunifying families. The American government is genuinely proceeding as if migrant families are not fully human, as if migrant children and parents don’t love and need one another, as if they are not traumatized and filled with terror and grief at being separated. This is horrifying beyond words, and it’s being done by our government.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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