Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says that should he win the presidency he will on day one of his new administration sign an executive order creating a federal task force to help reunite the hundreds of children who remain separated from their parents due to the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
Biden announced the task force in a new ad criticizing the administration’s inhumane policy that’s resulted in the ongoing separation of children three years after U.S. officials kidnapped them from their parents. “Their kids were ripped from their arms and separated, and now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents,” Biden says a moment highlighted from the final presidential debate. “It’s criminal.”
The Biden’s campaign’s ad, “Separated,” also features the shocking report from The New York Times this month exposing top Justice Department officials, including former attorney general Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and his deputy Rod Rosenstein, as “a driving force” behind the policy. The report said that Rosenstein in particular told department prosecutors that “it did not matter how young the children were.”
”Kids were under Mylar blankets, on concrete floors, after being taken from the arms of their parents,” journalist Jacob Soboroff said in a news clip highlighted in the ad. “I will never forget seeing it with my own eyes.” He notes in the news clip that doctors have said that the treatment of these children by the United States government is “consistent with torture.”
UCSF physician and UCSF Health and Human Rights Initiative co-chair Coleen Kivlahan told KQED, “I would describe cages and sleeping on the floor and being forcefully separated from their parents as severe pain or suffering. No different than I would if someone was beaten with a truncheon.”
A federal task force with the full backing and resources of a new and willing administration could be vital to advocacy groups that have been tasked by the court with reuniting families. They’ve said that Trump administration officials have only just now been offering some concrete assistance—and only because of the intense public backlash to the reports of ongoing separations.
As Michelle Wiley and Adriana Morga have previously reported for KQED, organizations working on family reunification have seen their grueling, on-the-ground efforts to locate deported parents in Central America largely put on hold because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “While defenders were able to connect with some people online,” Wiley and Morga reported, “it’s much harder to build trust with traumatized parents digitally than it is in person.”
The Trump administration chose cruelty and abuse. Now because of its intentional cruelty and abuse, hundreds of children have been effectively orphaned by the state for the past three years. It’s truly criminal, as Biden says in the clip.
“When the administration started separating families at the southern U.S. border … there was no plan to track the families or even reunite them, even though their own experts warned these separations were causing harm,” Justice in Motion Legal Director Nan Schivone told Wiley and Morga. “And here we are three years later, still dealing with the fallout.”