Christie: Yes, separating migrant children from parents at U.S.-Mexico border is child abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Children wrap themselves up with Mylar blankets to ‘symbolically represent the thousands of children separated from families on the border, sleeping on floors and held in cages’, during a protest at the rotunda of Russell Senate Office Building on Thursday on Capitol Hill. Activists staged a demonstration to protest the Trump Administration’s policy to separate migrant families at the southern border. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

UPDATE: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson will be in Homestead today at noon meeting with federal officials and getting a firsthand look at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children. Nelson, a Democrat, filed legislation in the Senate earlier this month to prohibit the Dept. of Homeland Security from continuing the blanket policy of separating children from their parents at the border. According to recent reports, there are roughly 1,000 migrant children currently being held at the Homestead shelter – some of whom were separated from their families at the border, and others who were unaccompanied minors when they crossed the border.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it now has 11,785 migrants in custody. That includes 1,995 children who have been separated from their parents. And of those, more than 100 are four years old and younger.

This is just inhumane. I don’t care what Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says.

How does a four, three or two-year-old even process being separated from their mother? According to Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, they can’t. They just cry.

“These children have been traumatized on their trip up to the border, and the first thing that happens is we take away the one constant in their life that helps them buffer all these horrible experiences,” she said of the nearly 2,000 children affected by the crackdown. “That’s child abuse.”

This tragic build-up at the U.S.-Mexico border has been happening for some time. It’s only within the last several months that it has grown to a number that led President Donald J. Trump to feel that it was untenable.

But in fact, now we know that the Trump administration intentionally began separating migrant children from their parents specifically to discourage them from crossing the border.

According to The Associated Press, the policy, which started last month, “sought to maximize criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally,” leading to more adults in jail, separated from their children.

But remember, the vast majority of these people — from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and others — are attempting to escape violence in their own countries. And it is not illegal to seek asylum in this country.

It is illegal to come into the United States illegally. But the U.S. immigration system had been broken for decades; largely because of the lack of political will to fix it. As a result, the strictness of policy has depended on the administration.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting of the National Space Council in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, on Monday. At the event, Trump remained resistant in the face of growing public outcry over his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

But it’s very safe to say, no administration has gone this far.

“The United States will not be a migrant camp,” Trump said in remarks Monday where he doubled down by defending and deflecting on the migrant separations, “… and it will not be a refugee holding facility.”

Trump also continued to blame Democrats — despite the fact that Republicans control the House, Senate and White House — for his implementing this part of a zero tolerance policy. Worse, the president and his administration continued to put forth lie that they are following law. There is no law requiring migrant children be separated from their parents.

As we are bombarded with pictures and audio recordings of children wailing in what look like dog kennels, however, the mutual disgust is crossing partisan lines. The pundits argue that Trump is playing to his base of support, but a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday  showed that Americans, 3-1, want this policy ended.

Even Melania Trump, one of the most reticent first ladies in memory, came out on Twitter against the the child separations. And former first lady Laura Bush criticized the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration as “cruel” in a Washington Post op-ed Sunday likening it to Japanese internment camps.

“I live in a border state,” Bush wrote. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

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Goodman: With DACA decision, Trump sells out American Dream to pander to his base

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces “wind down” of a program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Signaling sympathies to white supremacists in Charlottesville. Pardoning Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And now ending the DACA program.

In the space of a few weeks, President Donald Trump has turned the federal government — for at least 50 years the protector of civil rights for vulnerable, maligned minorities — into an instrument for the very opposite.

Today’s announcement that he is rescinding the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has offered protections for nearly 800,000 young immigrants who were brought here as children with no intent of their own — including nearly 40,000 in Florida — is arguably the worst.

As Jennifer Rubin, the conservative writer of the Washington Post’s Right Turn blog put it:

Of all the actions Trump has taken, none has been as cruel, thoughtless or divisive as deporting hundreds of thousands of young people who’ve done nothing but go to school, work hard and present themselves to the government.

As if he didn’t have the nerve to face the public himself, Trump sent his attorney general, the former senator with the past of racist accusations against him, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions 3rd, to announce the decision. Sessions’ statement was filled with claptrap about restoring the rule of law and constitutional order after President Barack Obama’s “overreach” in signing the program into existence by executive order.

Trump’s DACA cancellation doesn’t get fully implemented for six months, supposedly to give Congress time to come up with a legislative solution: a way for Dreamers to earn their right to stay here as legal citizens. Fat chance of that. It was because Congress failed so many times to grapple with the complications of illegal immigration that Obama finally decided to act: If he couldn’t solve every issue, at least he could help the most innocent of the people caught between two worlds.

Diego Rios, 23, of Rockville, Md., rallies in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, outside of the White House on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

About 70 percent of voters in most polls, Republicans and Democrats, back the DACA program, believing that Dreamers deserve sympathy and support. And why not? They are doing everything we expect of citizens. Ninety-one percent of Dreamers are working. They are projected to contribute $460.3 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product over the next decade — that is, if they aren’t mindlessly kicked out of the country.

Even Trump has said, “We love the Dreamers…We think the Dreamers are terrific.”

But Trump loves the crowds at his rallies even more. Increasingly, he is defining himself as the president of his base  — a base burning with white grievance — not president of the United States.

A real president of the United States would know in his soul that we’re a nation based on an essential bedrock of inclusion. It’s in our motto: E pluribus unum.

Out of many, one.