Los Angeles District / Flickr Ajo Border Patrol Station Groundbreaking...
Los Angeles District / Flickr

Though Donald Trump signed an executive order that will possibly—though not definitely—halt family separation at the border for now, it does nothing for parents and children who have already been torn apart. We know the government has no plans to reunite those families, but a federal defense attorney’s account of what his clients are going through really brings that home. Where most defendants want to know how long they’ll be in prison or whether they should plead guilty, Erik Hanshew writes, now his clients just want to know where their kids are. And the Trump administration and its border agents are 100 percent not interested in helping them find out:

During cross-examination of one agent, I asked if she was aware that my client was arrested with his 4-year-old daughter. She said no. I was shocked, but this is the game. I asked whether she was the lead investigator, and if she had talked to field agents in this case. She said yes. I asked if it had become known to her that my client had his 4-year-old child with him. Yes, she said, but added that she didn’t know the child was a 4-year-old female. […]

At another hearing before a different judge, as one of my colleagues asked the agent on the stand about the whereabouts of my client’s child, the prosecutor objected to the relevance of the questions. The judge turned on the prosecutor, demanding to know why this wasn’t relevant. At one point, he slammed his hand on the desk, sending a pen flying. This type of emotional display is unheard of in federal court. I can’t understand this, the judge said. If someone at the jail takes your wallet, they give you a receipt. They take your kids, and you get nothing? Not even a slip of paper?

We don’t know that the Trump administration won’t return to separating families when they think the public has stopped paying attention. But even aside from that, this story is not over because thousands of children are still terrified and traumatized and without their parents’ comfort. Those children must be returned. If seeing the famous pictures of that crying Honduran two-year-old girl made you care about family separation to begin with … well, that girl and the other children in the pictures you’ve seen are almost certainly still alone and afraid, whether in detention facilities or foster care. Don’t relent in your outrage until every single child has been returned to its parents.

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



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