Politics, Moderate



Trump administration showed cruel carelessness toward migrants

Esther J. Cepeda on

CHICAGO -- Words alone can't convey the disgust and outrage I feel over the Trump administration's cruel and careless treatment of migrants and refugees at the border.

In the spring of 2018, President Trump asked his top immigration and homeland security officials to end the so-called "catch and release" practice. He did this even though the overwhelming majority of people released into the country after being caught at the border are eager to return to immigration courts to have their cases heard.

At the same time, the president instructed the U.S. attorney general to direct all federal prosecutors' offices along the southwest border to work with the Department of Homeland Security to adopt a "zero-tolerance" policy, which required criminal prosecution of all apprehended migrants.

This meant that for about six weeks in late May and most of June 2018 -- until the public outcry over the atrocities at the border ended the practice -- all adults, even those accompanied by children, were put into detention. Mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles were separated from their young ones.

We all know the rest -- the freezing cold detainment centers, the cages, the lack of clean water and bathroom facilities, the 10-year-olds taking care of toddlers and babies on concrete floors, the shiny mylar "blankets" that kids were using to cover themselves over their filthy clothes.

What we all suspected, but hadn't had confirmed until now, is that there was little to no consideration given to the worth of the humans who were ripped from their loved ones' arms.


There had been so much indifference to these families that there was no plan in place to reunite them.

In fact, seven months before zero tolerance went into effect, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) knew that DHS didn't have the technical capacity to accurately track and account for the whereabouts of families separated during the zero-tolerance policy period, according to a new report from the DHS Office of Inspector General.

Preparing to move forward even though they really weren't equipped to do so, CBP adopted a grab bag of ad hoc methods to record and track family separations. But, according to the inspector general's report, those methods led to widespread errors.

In many cases, because the computer systems in place didn't have fields for capturing the kind of information necessary to reunify people later, Border Patrol agents wrote narratives about the reasons the family members were separated and pasted the text into the "criminal history" or "other reasons" fields.


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