Editorials

Chuck E. Cheese has better plan for reuniting families than Trump administration did

From left, Carla Provost, U.S. Border Patrol acting chief; Matthew Albence, Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Jonathan White, coordinator of family reunification for Health and Human Services; James McHenry III of the Department of Justice, Jennifer Higgins, associate director of Refugee, Asylum And International Operations of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, before testifying Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
From left, Carla Provost, U.S. Border Patrol acting chief; Matthew Albence, Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Jonathan White, coordinator of family reunification for Health and Human Services; James McHenry III of the Department of Justice, Jennifer Higgins, associate director of Refugee, Asylum And International Operations of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, before testifying Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee. AP Photo

Americans must never forget the mass cruelty inflicted on refugee children by the U.S. government, no matter how fast and fraudulently President Donald Trump tweets out distractions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and others who decreed and then lamely tried to justify government-sanctioned child abuse will move on with barely a ripple of conscience, if that.

Their young victims, on the other hand, will be burdened, perhaps for life, by the trauma of being ripped, in some cases literally, from the arms of their parents. Newly reunited with their children thanks to a court-imposed deadline, parents report that the youngsters are beset with anxiety, anger and fear.

Even when (and if) the almost 3,000 children taken from their families since the advent of Session’s “zero tolerance” policy in April are all returned, Americans must demand answers about the treatment of other migrant children held in a gulag of juvenile facilities, where, according to depositions in lawsuits, youngsters are being abused and forcibly injected with psychoactive drugs and sedatives.

Congress should investigate both the conditions and the lucrative contracts to house immigrants, including more than $1 billion in recent years to care for ( we use that term loosely) migrant children in federal custody.

During a Senate hearing Tuesday, five Trump administration officials were asked to raise a hand if they thought the “zero tolerance” policy or resulting family separations had been a success. None did. Nor would any of the five say who in the government was responsible for the decisions that have inflicted so much harm on children and this country’s standing among civilized nations.

A high-ranking public health official did say that he had warned his superiors that separating children from their parents carried a “significant risk of harm” and “psychological injury.” Commander Jonathan White, who organized the reunification effort at the Department of Health and Human Services, said that in response to his warnings, he was assured that the administration had no plans to separate children from parents.

None of the five officials said they had any warning of the policy until it was announced by Sessions. It’s no wonder, then, that there was no plan for keeping track of children and parents, or, as Sen. Patrick J. Leahy observed, that Chuck E. Cheese’s, the pizza and birthday party venue, has a better plan than the government did for when children become separated from their parents.

The United States can have strong borders and an immigration process governed by the rule of law without stooping to cruelty or abuse.

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