This article about the Trump family separation policy is just as jaw dropping as I’d heard it to be

I just finished writer Caitlin Dickerson’s exhaustive (and much talked-about) piece in The Atlantic about the insidious genesis and disastrous implementation of the Trump Administration’s family separation policy at the border. It’s a lot to digest given the byzantine nature of both the politics behind the policy, and the dizzying alphabet soup of federal agencies and programs involved.

I had no idea, for instance, of the myriad ways that immigrants seeking asylum at southern border — the vast majority who are not criminals, that is — can be handed off from the Border Patrol to ICE to HHS and elsewhere. The system already seems primed to lose track of people. Add into the mix an effort to purposefully yank screaming toddlers out of the arms of their mothers, and it’s easy to understand how people with nefarious motives could use the immigration bureaucracy toward amoral ends.

One part of the debacle that gob-smacked me was that I kept wondering, “Why had nobody thought to sit down and create a simple spreadsheet tracking the children who were taken away?” With just a few data points I could create one myself in an hour or two, and I’m no Excel expert.

I wasn’t the only one confused by that, as the Atlantic article makes clear:

[U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas John] Bash and other U.S. attorneys were flabbergasted by the ineptitude of those who had created the [family separation] policy. “I remember thinking, Why doesn’t someone just have an Excel file? ” Bash reportedly said. “I mean, it’s a large population in human cost and human terms, but it’s not a large population in terms of data management. We’re talking about a few thousand families. You can have all that on one spreadsheet with the names of the people, where the kid’s going. It was just insane. I remember being told that there was going to be a phone number parents could call and know where their kids were. And I told a public defender that and she was like, ‘This phone number doesn’t work, one. And two, most parents don’t have access to phones where they’re being held, or they have to pay for the use of the pay phone. So that doesn’t work.’ ”

Bash asked the Justice Department to launch an investigation into why parents and children were not being reunited expeditiously, still not fully understanding his agency’s role in the scheme. He created a list of questions that he wanted answered, which were shared with Gene Hamilton, Rod Rosenstein, and others at DOJ: “What technology could be used to ensure that parents don’t lose track of children?”; “Is it true that they are often pulled apart physically?”; “Why doesn’t HHS return the child to the parent as soon as the parent is out of the criminal-justice system, on the view that at that point the child is no longer an ‘unaccompanied minor’?” Rosenstein responded that the U.S. attorneys should try to find out what was going on themselves. The attorneys sent the questions to their Border Patrol counterparts, but their inquiries were ignored. “DHS just sort of shut down their communication channels to us,” Ryan Patrick, the U.S. attorney in South Texas, told me. “Emails would go either unanswered, calls would go unreturned, or ‘We’re not answering that question right now.’ ”

There wasn’t a way to track the children who were yanked from their parents because the Trump people wanted to inflict as much pain as possible. They didn’t want it to be easy, if possible at all, to reunite these terrified, damaged children with their loved ones. They fully expected — nay, they counted on it — that these children would never see their mothers again.

I seem to recall a government in the 1930s that thought taking newborns and toddlers away from undesirables and placing them with “acceptable” families in the homeland was good family planning.

I will admit here that I’ve always considered immigration to be a lesser issue, at least in terms of broad goals for a more just domestic society. Americans spend so much time being distracted and divided by the billionaire-funded right-wing echo chamber that has all of us fighting over immigration and abortion and drag queen story hours. Fighting about those important, but ultimately peripheral issues, keeps all of us from truly reforming laws related to Wall Street and the billionaires; from transforming the system so that Fox News and OAN and the people who pull their strings are no longer in charge.

If we did that rising up and taking power from the people who really hold it in this country, then many of these other issues would eventually become less controversial and easier to solve in rational ways, away from the white-hot cauldron of manipulated public opinion.

Now that I’ve read Dickerson’s heart-breaking article, however, immigration has moved up my list of motivations for the upcoming elections.

We cannot let the Trump monsters who pushed these inhumane policies — many of whom are federal career bureaucrats still employed at DHS, HHS and the Justice Department — from holding power. Because they are waiting for their chance to do it again. Next time, however, they will have lessons learned; namely, to first get rid of any of the people who stood in their way last time.

You can read Dickerson’s article at this link.

Leave a Reply