Last summer, after public outcry over the Trump administration’s newly instituted policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border reached a fever pitch, the president responsible tried to distance himself from the action. First, he blamed Democrats. Then, he issued an executive order that put the onus on Congress to solve the problem. “We’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” Donald Trump said. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
This may come as a shock, but it seems like the president didn’t really care that much about the welfare of migrant families. On Monday, NBC News reported that Trump “for months” has been trying to get his administration to reinstate “large-scale” family separation at the border.
The news comes a day after Trump forced the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who initially authorized the administration’s family separation policy. According to NBC News, the driving force behind her departure was her unwillingness to reinstitute the policy, which would have required a violation of federal court orders, as well as the executive order Trump signed last June.
Important note: Sources say Nielsen opposed reinstating family separation for legal reasons, not for moral reasons. https://t.co/YurrG5JDoT
— Julia E. Ainsley (@JuliaEAinsley) April 8, 2019
As was made clear yesterday — and pretty much every day over the past two years — breaking the law does not seem to be of concern to the president. In accepting Nielsen’s resignation on Sunday, Trump tweeted that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would take over as acting homeland security secretary. Unfortunately for the president, the law holds that Under Secretary for Management Claire Grady should be in line to fill the vacancy until Trump can get a permanent replacement confirmed by the Senate.
Regardless, Nielsen is out of the picture, and lawmakers have expressed concern that the administration could once again start to separate migrant families at the border. “As a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, let’s be absolutely clear: I will not support a nominee who does not forcefully and unequivocally denounce this administration’s policy of separating families at the border,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).
Kamala Harris: "As a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, let's be absolutely clear: I will not support a nominee who does not forcefully and unequivocally denounce this administration's policy of separating families at the border."
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 8, 2019
Though he may not be installed immediately, the Trump administration is likely to find a way to make sure McAleenan will step in for Nielsen on an acting basis, even if it means firing Grady. NBC News reports that McAleenan “has not ruled out” family separation as an option, and that he would consider allowing parents to bring their children with them into long-term detention as an alternative.
Welcome to America.