Children Are Still In Cages

Never forget the months when we were no better than the world's worst violators of human rights.

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Screenshot via YouTube.

In the crush of news regarding the disastrous NATO meeting and then Trump’s employee evaluation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, other crises of the previous week or month have been sidelined. In case you’ve forgotten — and no one could blame you — but let me remind you — children are still in cages.

In the age of Trump we careen from one crisis to another on a daily basis. We’ve become inured to the dizzying rate of his early morning rage tweets creating yet another crisis and then another crisis before your first cup of coffee. Like almost starting nuclear war with Iran:

Yeah, that should take our minds off his embarrassing display of sycophancy to Putin.

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But I do not want the fate of these children and their parents to be so easily forgotten. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — oh, the irony of that name in the time of Trump — under the direction of that hollowed-out soul Kirstjen Nielsen, had not one but two deadlines imposed by Judge Dana Sabraw of the US District Court in California to reunite the families. July 10 was the first deadline — to reunite some 100 children under the age of five. Unsurprisingly, the government missed the deadline and could only give about half the children back to their parents. I write “unsurprisingly” because the government never had a plan to reunite these families in the first place. According to The Guardian:

Although both parents and children are allocated A-numbers — “alien” identifiers — and case files, no government body aggregates and tracks them as a family unit. A separated child is treated by the system in exactly the same way as a child who had crossed the border without their parents.

It’s left to the NGOs to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

This is why the government had no reason to create a reunification process. Now HHS has to scramble to figure out how to do so under a very short timeline. In fact, reuniting the remaining children and babies (reminder: some children are actual babies) will be a herculean effort as some of the children are not located hundreds or thousands of miles away and, with reference to the Guardian quote, there is still no uniform mechanism to know which child belongs to which parent. Lawyers and child advocates are rushing to track down families who have been dispersed among detention centers and, in some cruel cases, deported without their children. In Trump’s America, we take children from their parents, especially if they are Brown and dirty from running. Allegedly.

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On July 10, Judge Sabraw asked Justice Department lawyers about the children that haven’t been reunited, why that is, and what would be the expectation of putting families back together. According to Ari Shapiro on National Public Radio, the judge

“…essentially wants three things. He wants the government to stop using DNA testing as a way to determine parentage. This is really important because it can take anywhere between 13 and 21 days to establish that parents are in fact the parents of their children. The second thing he wants are real exact reasons for why the government would not be able to reunify some of these children under 5. So far, the government has really used generalized reasons, and the judge says he wants specific examples and different ways to tackle the situation of reunifying those particular children.”

The second deadline, July 26, focused on the remaining 2,000-plus children over 5. The bumbling Trump administration missed that deadline as well. The chaotic mess that is the rush to reunification has also left parents with terrible decisions. Without much, if any, legal assistance, some signed away their rights to their kids. The parents have chosen, again, without really understanding their options, to return to their home country and leave their children in the US. This inconceivable cruelty is typical Trump. You just know he hasn’t given these children one thought since he was forced to sign the Executive Order stopping his jackbooted thugs from yanking them out of their parent’s arms.

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The ACLU has filed suit to stop deportations before reunification takes place; Judge Sabraw has temporarily blocked deportations while reunited families decide whether to try to remain in the US or return to their home country.

Meanwhile, in their desperation to get their kids back, parents are simply signing whatever is put in front of them.

Attorneys say they’ve spoken to some mothers who stopped pursuing their asylum cases after being told that continuing to fight would keep them in detention and separated from their children — potentially for months.”

Others have unknowingly signed forms saying they agreed to be deported rather than staying and pursuing an asylum claim because the forms were not in their language or they were not literate in English or Spanish…

The Trump administration stains America with abject cruelty. We will never quite be clean again, and even if every child gets to run into their parent’s arms, we will never forget the months in 2018 when we were no better than the world’s worst violators of human rights. I do not believe this administration will meet any federally imposed deadline. And why would they? What are the consequences to the administration? What is the judge going to do? Put Nielsen in jail? Put the entire HHS in jail? “Lock them up”? There is no actual punishment for keeping kids in cages. So I will keep an eye on them, keep you all informed and hope that somehow miracles are performed — that every child will experience their parents arms wrapped around them in unfathomable relief. And soon.