Cruelty Is the Point: The Trump Administration’s Dangerous Family Separation Policy

October 8, 2020 | National

“We need to take away children,” then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told prosecutors in May 2018, according to a draft Department of Justice report obtained by the New York Times. The prosecutors in the room reportedly recoiled, but this is what followed: thousands of immigrant children ripped from their parents, a global outcry, and our ongoing national and moral disgrace. 

The draft investigation report is the result of a two-year inquiry and confirms many truths already surfaced by government reports, advocates, litigation, and journalists on the ground. Yes, the Trump administration piloted in 2017 and then chose to implement more broadly in 2018 a family separation policy. Yes, the Trump administration deliberately took children away from their parents in order to deter families from seeking protection in the United States. The truth is unconscionable and yet the truth is unsurprising: The Trump administration makes cruel choices on the backs of children to serve its political ends. The cruelty is the point. 

The cruelty is also ongoing. Although Zero Tolerance–the policy under which 4,500 children were separated from their parents–officially ended in June 2018, 1,100 more children were taken from their parents between June 2018 and November 2019. Today, there are fresh threats of separations due to the Remain in Mexico program, immigration enforcement within the U.S. interior, and coercion in family detention centers

Family separation is dangerous to children’s health, development, and well-being. Family separation is also a choice. Moving forward, elected officials must choose family unity, and we who believe that democracy is not a spectator sport must remind those officials that their constituents have choices to make in this election. 

Read the New York Times story here.

For more on ongoing family separations and efforts to reunify children and parents, check out this report by the Young Center.