Trump’s family separation policy at the Mexican border

Caitlin Dickerson’s article about the Trump Administration’s family separation policy appeared yesterday in the Atlantic. Here is her Twitter thread of August 7:

I’ve spent the last 18 months investigating how our government reached the point of taking children away from their parents as a way to discourage migration to the United States. Here’s my story about how and why it happened, and who is responsible.

Beyond the answers to these initial questions, I came away with a new understanding of the government processes and procedures that exist to prevent bad policies from being implemented, systems that in this case were dismantled, disempowered, or ignored. It’s easy to blame family separations on a few hawks in a chaotic administration, but they were cosigned by dozens of high-ranking political appointees and bureaucrats. Some actively supported the idea, but many simply declined to push back, figuring that somebody else would.

The implications cannot be overstated. At present time, the parents of 185 separated children still had not been found. Even those who have been reunified remain in many cases profoundly traumatized. Both parents and children are struggling with severe mental illness.

For years we’ve been told that separations were done humanely and without incident. That’s not true. Neris Gonzalez, a Salvadorian and consulate worker, recalls kids being physically pulled back and forth between the parents and agent. She worried some might get hurt.

She says the CBP [Customs and Border Protection] processing center where she worked was virtually locked down while separations were underway. No one outside the government was allowed in to see what was going on. Gonzalez can still hear the children’s ear-piercing screams. She recalls getting ready to leave the facility at the end of the day. The children hugged and climbed on her, begging her not to leave them in the detention center alone.

When I asked government officials how this could have happened many told me they had no idea how badly awry separations would go. But government records show the opposite. Everything that went wrong was documented in advance warnings. Still the administration forged ahead.

This piece is a continuation of a body of work by many reporters who helped to uncover family separations before they were publicly acknowledged, during the many months when government officials were misleading Congress and the public about what they were doing.

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