Donald Trump has no answers for the border crisis. And things are about to get worse.
CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 7/5/2018, 2:08 p.m.
It's easy -- amid the numbers game and the various timelines -- to lose sight of something very, very important here: These are little kids we are talking about. Some younger than 5. As the father of two kids under age 10, I can't even imagine the terror these kids -- and their parents -- must be feeling. One time when my older son was 4, I couldn't find him in an outdoor mall for 10 minutes. I was absolutely panicked. So was he. That was 10 minutes. We are talking about days and week in some cases here.
This piece in the Los Angeles Times does a good job of capturing just how traumatic these separations have been. These lines in particular struck me:
"The words appear on a scrap of paper, scrawled in pencil by an immigrant mother held at a detention center: 'We beg you to help us, return our children. Our children are very desperate. My son asks me to get him out and I'm powerless here.'
"In another letter, childish print on notebook paper, a mother spoke of her son: 'It's been a month since they snatched him away and there are moments when I can't go on.... If they are going to deport me, let them do it — but with my child. Without him, I am not going to leave here.'
"At least 2,053 children were separated from their parents due to the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. Officials have said they reunited 538 of those children, but didn't intend to reunite them with parents who were detained. In more than a dozen letters collected by volunteers, detained mothers separated from their children shared their despair, pleaded to be released and sent messages of love to their children."
On Thursday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar would not give a specific number of separated children in HHS custody during a phone call with reporters. He said under 3,000 children currently in custody are being looked at as possibly separated minors and that approximately 100 children under the age of five in HHS custody may have been separated from their families.
What's even more striking is that Trump's solution to stop the family separations at the border -- an executive order that allows children to be detained with their parents -- is a stop-gap solution that is about to expire. Why? Because Trump's executive order did not override a Supreme Court decision from the early 1990s that says a child cannot be held in a detention facility for more than 20 days. Which means that on or around July 10 -- 20 days from Trump's signing of the EO on June 20 -- border enforcement officials will be required to start separating families currently being held in detention centers.
In short: The family separation crisis is likely to get worse -- and soon.
What of Trump's call for Congress to act? Prior to leaving last week for a July 4 recess, two comprehensive immigration bills -- one which was pushed by Trump and Republican leaders -- failed miserably. Like, not even close to passage. And Congress won't return to Washington until next Monday -- July 9 -- giving them 24 hours before major deadlines on family reunification and family separation kick in.
Congress has been trying to pass comprehensive immigration reform in one form or another since 2005. It hasn't happened yet. Given that, it seems unlikely that a series of scolding tweets from the President will suddenly light the necessary fire under Congress to solve these problems.
Yes, we are witnessing a policy failure here -- from the White House down through Congress. But, more than that, we are watching a humanitarian crisis play out -- among the youngest of us. And, no matter how you feel about our border policies, that can't -- and shouldn't -- sit right with you.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with new numbers from HHS.