The Trump administration kidnapped perhaps thousands more children from families at the southern border than was previously known, and now officials don’t even want to try to reunite them with their parents because they say it would be too much work. Even if they did try, they claim removing kids from sponsor homes to return them to their parents would be too “traumatic.”
Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) officials made the disgusting declarations during a court hearing in an ongoing lawsuit launched by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Government investigators said last month that they have no idea exactly how many kids were stolen by the administration prior to the official implementation of the barbaric “zero tolerance” policy, or where exactly they all ended up. Figuring it all out, officials claimed in response, was not a possibility.
“Even if performing the analysis Plaintiffs seek were within the realm of the possible,” said ORR’s Jallyn Sualog, “it would substantially imperil ORR’s ability to perform its core functions without significant increases in appropriations from Congress, and a rapid, dramatic expansion of the ORR data team.” Not that officials would be remotely interested in reuniting families they tore apart in the first place. Returning kids to their parents, Sualog continued, “would destabilize the permanency of their existing home environment, and could be traumatic to the children.” A little late for that, don’t you think?
A group of mothers who were victims of the “zero tolerance” policy actually have sued for the costs of mental health counseling, but the administration’s response was to try and have that lawsuit thrown out, claiming these kids weren’t their problem anymore. “They are saying they just don’t care,” said Michelle Brané of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “It’s shocking from a human rights perspective for a government to behave this way.”
The ACLU now wants the children who were stolen prior to the official policy to be included in the June ruling that ordered the administration to reunite separated families. A hearing will be held later this month. But even children court-ordered to be reunited with their families continue to remain in U.S. custody, months after Judge Dana Sabraw’s ruling.
“This latest news,” Congress member Joaquin Castro of Texas tweeted, “also makes clear that Judge Sabraw botched this case. He should have appointed a Special Master—after his initial ruling—with full powers to reunify the children and parents.” He also should have sent Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to jail for contempt of court, because family separation remains a crisis.