It’s hard to remember what we were angry about last week, let alone two years ago, but a new report from the New York Times is a good reminder of one atrocity that should be at the top of everyone’s minds this election season: the Trump administration’s family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border. A leaked draft of an internal investigation at the Justice Department shows that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed U.S. attorneys to take immigrant parents from their children, no matter how young.
“We need to take away children,” Sessions told prosecutors in a conference call in May 2018, according to notes taken during the call. Another note said: “If care about kids [sic], don’t bring them in. Won’t give amnesty to people with kids.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also reportedly told prosecutors not to make any exceptions based on the age of the children. That policy of intolerance began as early as 2017, during a five-month pilot program in Texas. Notes reveal that even the prosecutors were taken aback by how extreme it was.
Breaking News: “We need to take away children.” Jeff Sessions and top Justice Department officials pushed hard for migrant family separations in 2018, a watchdog found.https://t.co/g0LsvY5jUe
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 6, 2020
“We have now heard of us taking breastfeeding defendant moms away from their infants,” a prosecutor wrote to his superiors, per the Times. “I did not believe this until I looked at the duty log.”
The purpose of this ruthlessness, planned by Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller, was to deter future immigration. Let’s put that in another way: These officials decided to cause harm to real children and their families — most of whom were desperately fleeing deadly violence and starvation back home — in the hopes that they would be an example for other children and their families, who would maybe decide to choose deadly violence and starvation over being put in cages in the U.S.
The thing is, Sessions knew how bad this sounds. And so, in response to the overwhelming backlash to the policy, the Justice Department blamed the Department of Homeland Security and its former secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. But this report says that even she resisted it during an initial cabinet meeting. According to NBC News, her objection was due to a lack of resources that would result in losing children. Turns out she was right.
And in case you think that the ends justified the means, the report also showed that arresting everyone who illegally crossed the border, rather than prioritizing felons and making exceptions for families, strained resources so much that dangerous felons were actually slipping through the system and going free. Good job, everyone!
Also, in case people (Trump) start repeating the claim that Barack Obama and George W. Bush also separated families, we would like to remind you that this is false. Their policy was to make exception for families, as this article explains.
The 2018 policy resulted in around 3,000 children being separated from their families from May-June 2018. But we would also like to remind you that it is still happening, and when it is not, families are being detained together in terrible conditions, or being sent back to live in dangerous conditions across the border.
As parents, just think about what you would do if you feared for your children’s lives, if gangs threatened to kill your teenage sons and daughters, if all of you were on the brink of starvation, and if someone told you there was a chance they might survive, even thrive in a better place. How far would you go to get there? What would your own parents have done for your sake? And what makes those migrating parents any different from you? That is a question we’d like more leaders to ask themselves.
Talk to your kids about how racism affects their world, just like these celebrity parents have: