We Are Better Than This

I am horrified to my core by what this administration has done to innocent children in the past few weeks. We are better than this.

The current Administration imposed a “zero tolerance” policy that ordered the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to arrest all adults and directed the Department of Justice to prosecute every single case of illegal entry. This caused thousands of children to be separated from their parents and then, as we learned, locked into cages. The President lied and denied that the policy and the conditions existed.

Meanwhile, the President’s Chief of Staff, John Kelly, not only admitted the policy existed, he also said that this policy was intentional and was meant to be a deterrent and punitive.  Punishing innocent children should never, ever be U.S. policy.  The President actually said that these children “are not innocent.” I have yet to meet a young child who is not innocent.

The President continued to lie by saying that this was Congress’s fault and this was their policy and that Congress was the only one who could do anything to change things. He specifically blamed Democrats in Congress. This was a lie.

The President also said, while denying the policy existed or was in his power to fix, that he would not change the policy unless Democrats agreed to fund building the border wall, as well as several other of his immigration demands. While comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform is needed, the President using innocent children, some who may not ever fully recover from this experience, as leverage for building his wall is reprehensible. 

This is also not the first time he’s attempted to use innocent children as leverage for the wall.  He repeatedly talks about “a wall for DACA” referring to the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals which was a program to shield minor children who were brought to the U.S. from deportation. 

We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the President was lying about not being able to change the policy himself because on Wednesday, June 20, the President signed an Executive Order which ended his policy of separating children from their families and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to hold families together in detention.

However, the Executive Order says nothing about reuniting families that have already been separated. As of this writing, the Department of Homeland Security reported that 500 out of the 2,300 children who were separated have been reunited and that federal agencies are developing a centralized reunification process at the Port Isabel Detention Center. However, one legal aid organization in Texas as of Thursday night, June 21, said they were only able to locate 2 children out of the 300 parents they work for, so we need to stay vigilant.

I’m heartened by all the people who spoke out in the past week. A number of airlines told the federal government that they would not transport children who have been separated from their families. The American Psychological Association wrote a letter to the administration warning of the lasting psychological harm to the children and calling for the separation policy to be stopped. A Facebook fundraiser for an immigration legal services non-profit in Texas has raised over $20 million. All the former First Ladies spoke out against the policy.

Too many times in the past 17 months, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have completely failed the American people. They act as enablers of Donald Trump and stop Congress from performing its constitutional duty, which is to provide oversight of the Executive Branch. The Republicans in Congress must stop bowing to their far right and work on a solution. The Democrats, and the vast majority of the American people, are ready to fix this, but they can’t do it alone. We must all demand that the children who were separated are reunited quickly and safely, because we are better than this.

Naomi Andrews