A Trump administration official claims that he warned for months about the trauma of separating migrant children from their families before Trump launched his “zero tolerance” border policy earlier this year. Trump still decided to do it anyway.
“There is no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child,” Commander Jonathan White, a Health and Human Services official who led the agency’s family reunification efforts, told the Senate Judiciary Committee at Congress’s first hearing on the separations of thousands of families at the border, according to Bloomberg.
Senators and officials of both parties were concerned with this policy, top Judiciary Committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California called it a “deeply immoral” and “haphazard” policy. When Senators of both parties demanded answers, the Trump administration and Homeland Security denied that they were separating families. Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted out, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Still, families were separated and some kept in government custody.
Fortunately, after the public outcry, Trump decided to end the policy in June. Though, there are still families trying to reunite with each other.
According to Bloomberg, “as of July 26 — the deadline set by U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw — the administration said it had reunited more than 1,400 children with their parents, while an additional 700 children remained in government custody.” The administration said it would only take a few weeks, but it is taking longer than expected.
We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.
— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) June 17, 2018
There is also conflicting reports of how the children are treated in government care. According to Bloomberg, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa said the administration is “failing miserably” at treating some of the migrant children humanely. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement official Matthew Albence described them as “more like a summer camp” with food, medical care, and access to education and recreation.
Either way, White says that 429 children still remain in custody while they look for their parents.
“It is absolutely my heartfelt conviction that we must reunify those children with their parents,” White said. “If I could have reunified all those children with their parents by yesterday it would be done.”
As of Monday, Sabraw ordered the Trump administration and the plaintiff — the American Civil Liberties Union — to submit plans for reuniting children with parents who have either been deported or who have been released and not yet located.