Sometimes the truth is stranger and more appalling than satirists could possibly imagine. That was the case recently when the news emerged that the federal government had misplaced 1,500 immigrant children.
For the past year, the Trump Administration has implemented a policy of separating children from immigrants who were being held in immigration detention centers. As John Stonestreet noted in Breakpoint, it was not only illegal immigrant families that were being torn apart, but also families who had come to the United States legally to seek asylum.
Earlier this month, CNN reported on the Senate testimony of Steven Wagner, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Wagner revealed that in the last three months of 2017 the government had lost track of an astounding 20 percent of undocumented minors in its custody. In all, Mr. Wagner testified that the Office of Refugee Resettlement “was unable to determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,475 children.” Another 28 children were known to have run away.
Mr. Wagner was not overly concerned with the 1,500 missing children. “I understand that it has been HHS's long-standing interpretation of the law that ORR is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care,” he told senators.
Stonestreet noted that Obama Administration policy was to detain families of asylum seekers while their applications were being reviewed. The Trump Administration initiated the policy of separating families to discourage immigrants from coming to the US.
Earlier in May, the Trump Administration announced the new policy of referring every person caught crossing the border illegally for federal prosecution. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at the time, “If you're smuggling a child, we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don't want your child to be separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally.”
On May 11, Chief of Staff John Kelly told ABC News, “The children will be taken care of -- put into foster care or whatever.”
The policy is apparently being used against legal immigrants seeking asylum as well. In Breakpoint, Stonestreet cited the case of “Mrs. L.,” a Catholic refugee who was detained in San Diego and separated from her daughter without due process. The daughter was sent to a facility in Chicago where their only contact has been a half-dozen phone calls.
When the policy of family separations became news this week, President Trump responded by blaming Democrats. The president tweeted that Democrats needed to be pressured “to end the horrible law that separates children from there [sic] parents once they cross the Border into the U.S.” The problem is that the separations are Trump Administration policy, not a legal requirement.
While needlessly separating young children from their parents is bad enough, losing 20 percent of the children in federal care is appalling. If the Trump Administration hopes to persuade Americans that the federal government is not competent at even the smallest task, losing more than a thousand children in its care is an excellent way to start.
The hardline policy may backfire on the Trump Administration politically. Americans have consistently been more accepting of immigrants than Republicans have been. Last year, Fox News found that 83 percent of registered voters supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. Ripping small children from the arms of their parents is unlikely to boost support for strict immigration enforcement.
The policy is likely to make the Republican brand look even worse. An AP poll from March found that most Americans already think President Trump is racist. A policy separating immigrant parents from their children is unlikely to convince people otherwise.
Trump’s policy is also inconsistent with the image of a party that claims to be pro-family and Christian. Republicans have scored recent victories against abortion and Planned Parenthood, but the poorly-implemented child separation policy lends credence to liberal claims that the party only cares about children until they are born.
Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” But Christ also gave a warning, saying, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,” Jesus said. “For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
Ripping families apart to make a political point is hard to square with Christian and conservative ideals. It is even more difficult to justify taking so little care that 1,500 little children – 20 percent of the total – could be placed into federal care and simply disappear.
[Photo: ICE Special Agents (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) arresting suspects during a 2010 raid in Houston.]