It’s impossible to look at the Trump administration’s practice of migrant family separation and see it as anything other than what it is: institutionalized child abuse.
By now, there have been real horror stories: parents hearing their children screaming in the next room; a man who committed suicide when his three-year-old was taken from him; children kept in what Oregon senator Jeff Merkley described as a “dog kennel”; a woman being told by a border patrol agent: “You will never see your children again. Families don’t exist here. You won’t have a family any more.”
Enough of these stories have come out that any questions of them being isolated incidents have been put to rest. These are not actions by rogue agents. They are systematic, and they come straight from the top. Indeed, attorney general Jeff Sessions has acknowledged as much, announcing in May a policy which had already been in practice for much of the past year.
Adults caught crossing the border illegally are transferred to criminal custody to be prosecuted for that crime – a misdemeanor – including those exercising their legal right to seek asylum. Their children are taken from them and placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services as “unaccompanied minors”. Sessions has equated parents with human traffickers: “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.”
The trauma caused by these separations for parents and their children is not an unfortunate byproduct of a necessary legal process; it is the whole point. It is a punishment designed to be as grotesque as possible in order to scare other migrants. [Continue reading…]