On Tuesday, the nation’s fury continued to mount over the Trump Administration’s family separation policy aimed at deterring undocumented immigrants from entering the United States. A group of 13 Republican Senators sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for an end to the policy. In the face of the rising criticism, President Trump and his media allies struggled to mount an effective defense of the indefensible.
Their lack of success was the result of two factors. First, federal law does not require that undocumented immigrant family members be separated upon entering the United States. Second, the family separation policy is harmful to the targeted children.
On June 15, President Trump attempted to invoke the requirements of the law to justify his policy. When asked by the news media whether he agreed with children “being taken away” from their parents, Trump stated, “I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law.”
Later, he added:
The children can be taken care of quickly, beautifully, and immediately. The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children. The Democrats can come to us as they actually are — in all fairness, we are talking to them — and they can change the whole border security.
A group of 75 former U.S. Attorneys explained in a letter to Attorney General Sessions:
As former U.S. Attorneys, we know that none of these consequences — nor the policy itself — is required by law. Rather, its implementation and its execution are taking place solely at your direction, and the unfolding tragedy falls squarely on your shoulders. It is time for you to announce that this policy was ill-conceived and that its consequences and cost are too drastic, too inhumane, and flatly inconsistent with the mission and values of the United States Department of Justice. It is time for you to end it. Effective leadership and the integrity of the world’s leading law enforcement agency require nothing less.
Some of the President’s supporters even tried to paint a rosy picture of the Trump Administration’s harsh practice. “Many elements of Casa San Diego, an El Cajon facility for unaccompanied children who arrived at the southern border, seem like what one would expect from a boarding school,” Laura Ingraham tweeted. “There are classrooms, a play area with soccer goals and a medical clinic with superheroes like Wonder Woman, Superman and the Hulk on the walls.
Implicit in that train of thought is the notion that the value of the family as an institution is greatly exaggerated. Also implicit is the proposition that a “boarding school” atmosphere, “play area with soccer goals” and posters of myriad superheroes provide a reasonably fair substitute for a child’s parents.
None of that is accurate. The medical literature reveals that the detention of children and their separation from parents is harmful.
A research paper published in the May 2015 edition of The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry revealed:
The literature suggests that detention has significant psychological effects on children who seek asylum in high-income countries. Studies in the United Kingdom and in Australia indicate that children in detention have high rates of psychiatric symptoms, including self-harm, suicidality, severe depression, regression of milestones, physical health problems, and posttraumatic presentations.
Research published in June 2007 edition of Sage Publications explained:
As early as 1943, Anna Freud suggested that children who lived through World War II had a more positive psychological outcome if a supportive parent was available. Disruption of attachments has been found to exacerbate trauma and to detract from children’s ability to navigate trauma as well…
Among Central American immigrant children, secure and insecure children’s attachment groups show significant differences in social competence and ego resiliency. Among Central American refugee children separated from their fathers, older children seemed to be more vulnerable to PTSD than their younger counterparts, and separation from both parents affected cognitive and emotional functioning, with academic and reading levels being lower and depressive symptoms being present.
Family separation is not “boarding school.” Its impact on the affected children is much closer to the “cruel and unusual punishments” that are prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
Nevertheless, the Trump Administration and its supporters remain engaged in a “take-no-prisoners” disinformation campaign. On Tuesday evening, President Trump tweeted about “obsolete & nasty laws” that “force family separation.” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted, “Instead of criticizing those of us who uphold our oaths by enforcing the laws Congress drafted, work with us to change them.”
False and false. Both narratives are inaccurate. The law does not mandate family separations.
Their commentary is aimed at masking the harsh reality of the policy President Trump embraced and Ms. Nielsen implements. Disinformation gives them their only hope of evading responsibility for their choice and its damaging consequences to the affected undocumented immigrant children who are deprived of the company of their parents and siblings.
Aside from moral implications, falsehood is incompatible with a tolerant, secure, peaceful, and republican society. Falsehood can lead to intolerance, insecurity, violence, and tyranny.
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn addresses this in his acceptance speech for the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence. Any man who has once acclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose falsehood as his principle. At its birth violence acts openly and even with pride. But no sooner does it become strong, firmly established, than it senses the rarefaction of the air around it and it cannot continue to exist without descending into a fog of lies, clothing them in sweet talk. It does not always, not necessarily, openly throttle the throat, more often it demands from its subjects only an oath of allegiance to falsehood, only complicity in falsehood.
And the simple step of a simple courageous man is not to partake in falsehood, not to support false actions!
Near the end of his tweeted complaint about “nasty laws,” President Trump stated, “We want ‘heart’…in America!” Really?
It’s your move, Mr. President. You possess all the necessary authority to rescind the family separation policy. You can do it right now. No Congressional action is required. Now go and restore “heart” to America.