Trump Administration: Reuniting the Families We Separated Would Be ‘Disruptive’

Back in June, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to reunite the families that had been separated as a result of their zero tolerance policy. The ACLU originally brought the case and has been representing the plaintiffs in ongoing hearings before the district court in Southern California.  The most recent filing by the administration is nothing short of shockingly deplorable.

On Friday, officials from the Trump administration said it would require too much effort to reunite the thousands of families it separated before implementing its “zero-tolerance” policy in April, according to a declaration filed as part of an ongoing lawsuit between the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Last month, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services released a report stating that “thousands” more immigrant families had been separated than the government had previously disclosed. In the declaration submitted Friday, HHS officials said they don’t know the exact number of children who were taken from their parents before “zero tolerance” and that finding them would be too much of a “burden” since there was no formal tracking system in place.

The Trump administration didn’t just separate children from their parents after formally announcing their zero tolerance policy. The report cited above suggests that thousands of children might have been separated in 2017 before tracking began, meaning that the 2,737 previously reported could be a massive undercount.

Now the administration is saying that finding all of those children and reuniting them with their parents is too much of a burden and they’re asking Judge Sabraw to give them a pass on even trying. But it gets worse. In truly Orwellian fashion, the administration suggests that an attempt to reunite these families could be detrimental to the children. They actually had the gall to put this in writing:

Even if ORR [Office of Refugee Resettlement] has the authority and resources to interfere in familial relationships between the sponsor and child, doing so would be disruptive and harmful to the child…Disrupting the family relationship is not recommended child welfare practice.

It is truly mind-boggling that someone from an administration that purposefully disrupted family relationships for thousands of children has now put in writing that an attempt to reunite them with their parents would be disruptive and out of compliance with recommended child welfare practice.

I used the word “Orwellian” above in an attempt to get at how twisted this argument is. But in many ways it is beyond anything George Orwell ever imagined. Perhaps it is time to christen the word “Trumpian” to describe policies that are overtly cruel, combined with rationales that are shockingly deplorable.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.