Posted by Guest on July 18, 2018 in Blog

By Blaise Malley

Just one month ago, it was nearly impossible to go anywhere without hearing about the abhorrent family separation scandal at the border. As President Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy” took effect, over 2,500 children were separated from their families, and the administration faced perhaps its most sustained and widespread stream of criticism since coming into office.

Secretary of Homeland Security Krijsten Nelson and Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, the supposed architect of the policy, were confronted by protesters at restaurants and the President was roundly criticized by members of his own party. 

The outcry from the American public continued as, on June 30th, hundreds of marches across the country brought hundreds of thousands of people together to protest the administration’s actions and demand that they stop their practice of separating children from their families. Jess Morales Rocketto, the political director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said that she had “literally never seen Americans show up for immigrants like this”.

However, just a few weeks later, this story got lost amidst the headlines pertaining to the Muslim ban, Justice Anthony Kennedy's upcoming resignation, and President Trump’s shocking showing at his press conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. These other newsworthy items, along with the fact that Trump eventually seemed to cave under the pressure, issuing an executive order that’s supposed halt the practice of separating families meant that the stories about children being separated from their families all but disappeared. However, the Executive Order provided no specifics on how those who had already been forced apart would be reunited and the problem is therefore far from solved.

This has been a recurring theme for an administration which has been embroiled in so many scandals that it is often difficult to keep track. Important stories get lost under a pile of other headlines and evaporate from public view. The President has managed to create so much outrage that it is close to impossible to create a consistent and strong argument against any single tweet or policy before the next one pops up. In the world of major American media platforms--both traditional and social--this story no longer exists.

In reality, though, this problem rages on and, in some ways, looks to be getting even worse. A federal judge in California ordered that the government must reunite separated children, especially those under the age of five, by July 10th. According to the Huffington Post, “as of July 12 — two days after the judge’s deadline — officials said they had reunited 58 kids younger than five. Of the remaining children under age five who are still in custody, 12 children’s parents had already been deported and 34 children are ineligible for reunification (...)”

The same report indicates that many of the children who were split from their families have been traumatized by having to endure extreme levels of both physical and emotional stress. Looking toward the future, Slate has reported that internal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) documents have indicated that the agency, already caring for almost 12,000 children, is preparing for another surge of immigrant children, perhaps signifying that the government is readying for another period of escalation of family separations.

This policy is harming an enormous number of people. Beyond being morally wrong, it also having an impact on the American taxpayers, including costing the Department of Health and Human Services tens of millions of dollars. It has not curbed immigration in the way the Trump administration claims. It has had both psychological and physical effects on its victims, who have been grossly mistreated, including suffering from sexual abuse and neglect of care for pregnant women. By signing a largely meaningless executive order and creating other attention-grabbing stories, Trump has managed to divert the collective scrutiny of the American people from what his policies have done. Citizens must not lose sight of this critically important issue and pressure the administration into making real changes.

Blaise Malley is a 2018 summer intern at the Arab American Institute.