Family Reunification Videos Show the Horror of Trump's Border Policy - Rolling Stone
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These Family Reunification Videos Show the Horror of Trump’s Border Policy

These are the children President Trump locked in cages

Three-year-old Jose Jr., from Honduras, is helped by representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center as he is reunited with his father Tuesday, July 10, 2018, in Phoenix. Lugging little backpacks, smiling immigrant children were scooped up into their parents' arms Tuesday as the Trump administration scrambled to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite dozens of youngsters forcibly separated from their families at the border. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Three-year-old Jose Jr., from Honduras, is helped by a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center as he is reunited with his father Tuesday, July 10th, 2018, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

As pundits and politicians race to label Donald Trump’s Monday morning press conference with Vladimir Putin as the most disgraceful moment of the Trump presidency, close to 3,000 migrant children still remain separated from the parents. The Department of Health and Human Services has made paltry efforts to reunify families since the Trump administration instituted its “zero tolerance” policy in May, so much so that late last month a federal judge mandated that all families be reunited within 30 days, and that all children under the age of five be reunited with their parents within 14 days. Last Tuesday, the administration missed the 14-day deadline, and it’s likely to miss the upcoming 30-day deadline, as well. “That’ll be a significant undertaking,” Judge Dana Sabraw, who issued the order, recently told attorneys representing the administration.

Despite the sluggish pace, several families have been reunited in recent weeks. Many of these reunifications have been filmed. It’s easy to become desensitized to the daily atrocities of the Trump administration, even regarding a humanitarian issue as gut-wrenching as ripping children away from their parents and detaining them in cages. Just as ProPublica‘s audio of a young girl crying for her mother evoked a visceral response, so, too, do these videos, which lay bare the physical and emotional toll the separations have taken on both parents and children. While implications of Trump cowing to Putin while bashing U.S. intelligence agencies remain to be seen, the implications of the administration’s immigration policy are already on full display.

Hermelindo Che Coc of Guatemala was reunited with his 6-year-old son last week after nearly two months apart. The Los Angeles Times documented their reunification. “When I spoke to my son Monday, he cried, ‘Papa, you don’t love me anymore. How come you haven’t called me?’” Che Coc told the paper.

Liliana Martinez was finally reunited with her 5-year-old son after being separated from him in May. She was detained in Arizona while her son was in Corpus Christi, Texas. Martinez had been told they would only be apart for a month.

There is a reason many of these children, especially the younger ones, appear distant as their parents greet them. As American Academy of Pediatrics President Colleen Kraft told CBS last month, being separated from their parents for such a prolonged period of time at such a young age can have a catastrophic, often permanent effect on children. “This type of trauma can be long-lasting and it’s difficult to recover from this,” she said. “We know very young children who experience this type of trauma go on to not develop their speech, not to develop their language, not to develop their gross and fine motor skills and wind up with developmental delays.”

Also in Corpus Christi, Lucy Menjivar and her 6-year-old son were reunited after nearly a month apart. They are now in Dallas, where they will stay with family and wait for their asylum case to be resolved.

Ever Reyes Mejia and his 3-year-old son had been separated from his wife and 5-month-old daughter for over three months before they were reunited on Saturday.

Albertina Contreras was reunited with her 11-year-old daughter Yakelyn in Nashville after being separated when they arrived at the border from Guatemala. “They said, ‘You don’t understand. You’re animals. Don’t you watch the news? We don’t want to see more immigrants here,'” Contreras told Nashville Public Radio. “The kids cried and screamed, but they didn’t care.” She left Guatemala after being beaten repeatedly by an ex-boyfriend. She had no choice but to take her daughter with her. “If I left her I took the risk that she’d be a victim like I was in the past, of violence, of rape, or even worse things,” she said.

Last week, 6-year-old Alisson Ximena Valencia Madrid was finally reunited with the mother for whom she was crying in the audio published by ProPublica.

When they arrived at the border in McAllen, Texas, seeking asylum after fleeing El Salvador, Allison was sent to Arizona while her mother, Cindy Madrid, was detained at the border. They were reunited in Houston, where they will remain until their case is resolved. “We’ve got an uphill battle,” said Madrid’s lawyer Thelma Garcia. “It is going to be complicated. It is going to be difficult. We are hoping to put all our resources and work hard on her case.”

Trump’s message to America is that these people are criminals. Unfortunately, it appears the message is getting through – at least to Trump’s base. A poll released by HuffPost on Monday found that 85 percent of Trump voters believe MS-13 is a very serious or somewhat serious threat to the United States as a whole. In reality, MS-13 is largely unsophisticated, localized in a select few areas of the country and hasn’t grown in size in over a decade. Only a fraction of one-percent of the families who have crossed the border this year were proven to be illegitimate. None of them have been connected to MS-13.


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