They Really Don’t Care, Do They?

In the days prior to Trump signing an executive order that substituted indefinite family detention for his family separation policy, it became clear that, as Jonathan Blitzer wrote, “No protocols have been put in place for keeping track of parents and children concurrently, for keeping parents and children in contact with each other while they are separated, or for eventually reuniting them.”

Now that the policy is supposedly no longer in place, the question becomes what to do about the 2,000+ children that are currently in custody. A federal judge in San Diego issued a ruling about that yesterday.

Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California granted a preliminary injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union. He said all children must be reunited with their families within 30 days, allowing just 14 days for the return of children under 5 to their parents.

After hearing the evidence of what’s going on, Sabraw obviously came to the same conclusion that Blitzer and other reporters on the ground had reached. His ruling found that:

…the zero-tolerance policy, begun in early May, along with the executive order and a subsequent fact sheet issued by the Department of Homeland Security outlining the process of removal, marked a sharp departure from “measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution.” It faulted the Trump administration for “a chaotic circumstance of the Government’s own making.”

The judge stated bluntly: “The unfortunate reality is that under the present system, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.”

Faulting Donald Trump with “a chaotic circumstance of the Government’s own making” could be a description of pretty much every move this president has made. The longer he stays in office, the more of this kind of chaos we’ll see running rampant throughout the federal government. For many of his enablers and supporters, that is a feature, not a bug.

It’s also hard to miss that line comparing the treatment of these children and property. Judge Sabraw has written that separating children from their parents and then not giving a damn about tracking their whereabouts concurrently demonstrates that this administration cares more about property than they do these children. I was immediately reminded that slaves in this country were assumed to be “chattel,” which is a synonym for property.

HHS Secretary Azar now has either two weeks or a month to clean up this mess, depending on the age of the children. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty skeptical that a man who has spent the last ten years working on behalf of pharmaceutical companies is going to be able to pull this one off. To do so will not only require skills, it means that he has to either care about the children who are involved or the wrath of Judge Sabraw. Given this administration’s track record, I’m doubtful that either one applies.

When First Lady Melania Trump traveled to Texas to visit with some of the families affected by all of this, the big story was that she wore a $40 jacket with the words, “I really don’t care, do you?” emblazoned on the back as she boarded the plane. It remains a mystery to me why she did so and what she was trying to communicate. But it strikes me that when it comes to the children and families affected by her husband’s policies, that slogan pretty much captures the message they’re sending to the American people. They really don’t care and are placing their bets on the idea that we don’t either.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.