New dark chapter

Family separation is the latest hallmark of the Trump administration

Like a lot of parents, when I first read about the Justice Department’s new policy of separating migrant kids from their parents, I couldn’t help but think of my child. I still can’t wrap my head around what it would be like for him to be confined within a chain-link fence in some warehouse near the border.

For starters, Henry’s a medically fragile kid. The list of what ails him is too long to go into in this space, but A) he doesn’t walk well, and B) several of his conditions result in pain. That is to say, spending his days and nights without the comforts of home would be tremendously difficult for him physically.

Plus, who would give him his medicine? Who would make sure my finicky eater got enough nourishment? Who would make sure his cold didn’t once again turn into pneumonia? Indeed, who would care for him like his father and I would? The answer: nobody. We know our child better than anyone, and it’s in his best interest that we care for him. Most parents can relate.

I also can’t fathom the toll it would take on him emotionally. Henry’s a sensitive kid. He’s attuned to other people’s feelings—among the first to ask what’s wrong when someone appears sad, hurt or angry. Because he has a developmental disability, he wouldn’t understand why he was taken from me or how long our separation would last.

Come to think of it, no one knows the latter. That’s because this is a new policy under President Trump—previous administrations, irrespective of party, haven’t treated migrant families with such disdain. Illegal border crossings by frightened people seeking refuge in the land of the free were treated as misdemeanors and addressed largely by immigration courts, not federal criminal courts.

Their babies weren’t taken from them, and it’s not an exaggeration to say it that way. The government has established so-called “tender age” shelters for kids under the age of 13, including infants and toddlers. They are run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement within the Department of Health and Human Services. Government officials from that agency reported this week that more than 2,300 children have been separated from their families since May.

Trump could end this practice at any time. Instead, he lies and says this is the Democrats’ policy. Instead, he acts as though the U.S. is at war with these refugees. Instead, he likens them to fleas who are attempting to “infest our country.”

Meanwhile, the president’s toadies can’t keep up with his deflections. Stephen Miller, the adviser who’s regarded as the chief architect of the strategy, told The New York Times it reflects a “zero-tolerance” stance on illegal entry. Meanwhile, Kirstjen Nielsen, the head of Homeland Security, denied the existence of such a policy. But they can’t escape this fact: Separating families is occurring now, and it hasn’t in the past.

Medical experts have weighed in on the consequences to the well-being of these children. According to the American Psychological Association, we’re talking about potentially “long-lasting psychological damage.” The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics called it “government-sanctioned child abuse.”

What’s frightening is that it’s just the latest unthinkable scenario in this new dark chapter of our nation’s history—something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.