Do you remember the outrage you felt when you learned about the Trump administration policy of family separation?
Exactly one year ago, facing massive public pressure and reports that the administration was also “losing” thousands of children in its custody, Trump signed an executive order on June, 20, 2018, supposedly ending this policy of separating migrant kids from their parents. Days later, the administration was ordered by federal judges to reunite the families it had broken apart under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. This policy required all adults to be arrested at the border (even those seeking asylum) and prosecuted criminally, while their kids would be separated from them into different shelters.
Maybe you were one of those who breathed a sigh of relief at the time because it seemed like this policy’s horrible brutality was ending.
Or maybe you didn’t feel any sense of relief. Maybe you suspected that the Trump administration had no intention of backing down on its cruelty.
You will never be wrong if you bet on perpetual cruelty from this administration.
It turns out that this family separation policy never ended. It continues, and conditions continue to deteriorate for migrant children and their families. The Trump administration is taking advantage of legal loopholes to justify the continued separation of children from their families, and has no formal systems in place to help those separated families reunite.
Just one example: A worker from the Texas Civil Rights Project has documented 1,167 family separations just in McAllen, Texas alone, including 785 since Trump signed his executive order. On one single morning this spring, this worker witnessed the separation of 7 families at the courthouse.
What We Know
During the past few months of this year, reporting has revealed:
- Government plans to use a former internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II to house migrant children
- The cancellation of English classes, recreation, and legal aid for children held in migrant detention camps, despite a federal order that requires education and legal services as part of basic humane standards for children in federal custody
- “Neglect and mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government” at a detention facility in El Paso where 250 babies, toddlers, children, and teenagers are being held, according to an Associated Press report. The investigation describes young children who are forced to take care of other younger children, who go weeks without baths or changes of clothing, are given inadequate nutrition, and who are held in these unsafe and unsanitary conditions for weeks (despite laws that explicitly forbid Border Control to hold children for more than 72 hours)
- The Trump Justice Department went to court to appeal a requirement that children must have toothbrushes or soap when they are kept in government custody
- Children forced to sleep on concrete benches or outside because of overcrowding at these camps
- The sexual abuse of thousands of migrant children at these government camps
- The deaths of at least 6 migrant children in U.S. custody, just in the last nine months
- Thousands of migrants are being held in solitary confinement (locked in a tiny cell for 22 hours or more without human interaction) because they are transgender or suffer from mental illness
- After literally being ripped from their parents’ arms, 37 children between the ages of 5 and 12 spent at least 39 hours locked in a van in a parking lot of a detention facility under the brutal Texas sun
I could go on and on with specific, recent examples of mistreatment, neglect, and violations of current laws.
I am left with the question: How is this happening right now in front of our eyes? The media is reporting these tragedies day after day. Why aren’t they making the headlines during every news cycle? Why aren’t there hearings and huge public protests in the streets of every major city?
Republicans are more outraged about Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez using the term “concentration camp” to describe these barbaric detention facilities than the actual conditions under which these kids are held.
Trump Is Counting On Us To Be Exhausted
I’ve never heard a better explanation for our present condition, more than two years into the Trump administration, than this from New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg:
“There’s a familiar pattern to the administration’s handling of family separation, one that recalls the Muslim ban. First, Trump’s team shocks the country with its callousness, causing chaos and terror. People rise up, and the administration backs down or a court intervenes. But once the storm passes, Trump’s people try again. Eventually, having worn out the country’s capacity to resist, they quietly institute some previously inconceivable new policy.”
She goes on:
“There are kids in this country being systematically brutalized by the American government, and it’s hard to keep that in the forefront of your mind all the time without going mad. I understand why, bombarded with stories about the Trump administration’s sadism, people can just shut down. One some level, I think Trump understands this as well.”
Shock at Trump’s cruelty.
Trump repeats his cruelty again, this time more quietly.
The cycle repeats.
We’ve grown used to hearing this description of the Trump administration: “The cruelty is the point.”
Of course, this is true. But I also think, just as importantly, exhaustion is the point.
Trump is counting on us to grow numb, to shut down, to be exhausted by all of his other daily corruption and threats to democracy, to retreat to the comforts of our everyday lives. He is counting on us to grow so tired of the daily atrocities that we don’t pay attention anymore. He wants us to shrug our shoulders and just count the days until the 2020 election.
That’s not enough. We can and must do something. The Trump administration is counting on your silence.
How To Help Migrant Kids
Call. Contact your member of Congress to ask them to vote to refuse to give the Trump administration additional funding to enforce its border policies. This administration plans a national roundup of undocumented immigrants next week. Tell your representative to defund those efforts and to vote against any bill that gives more money to ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforcement.
Donate. Find organizations working to assist migrant children at the border. RAICES (Refugee Center for Education and Legal Services) is a nonprofit providing legal services to immigrant families and refugees. You can find more organizations here and here.
Organize and protest. Find a local march or protest. On July 12th, Lights for Liberty: a Vigil to End Human Detention Camps is staging a nationwide protest which will include bringing thousands to detention camps all over the country. FInd out more about the planned protests or to organize your own vigil here.
Support alternatives to detention, including sponsoring a detained individual or family. The Asylum Sponsorship Project facilitates sponsorship of detained immigrants. By providing food, shelter and other support, you are keeping the family out of detention and ensuring that they get the appropriate care and legal and medical support they need and deserve. If you aren’t in a position to sponsor an immigrant individual or family, you can support others who are. By doing so, you can have an immediate and direct impact on an immigrant impacted by these horrific policies.
Lawyers for Good Government also has these suggestions:
Contribute to the Project Corazon Travel Fund to send much-needed lawyers to the detention centers.
Donate your frequent flier miles to lawyers going to the border. To find out how, click here.
Most of all, do not give up. Even if things feel hopeless, we must not give in. People often look back at history and wonder how people just went along with what happened then. You don’t have to wonder. Do something now, and keep doing things– even if they feel hopeless. Many people doing small or big things together can change the course of events and history. This is not a fight where we can accept defeat. Fight on.