On Tuesday, Mexico joined others who have forcefully condemned the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that has led to the separation of over 2,000 children from their parents at the border. “We strongly urge the U.S. government to reconsider this policy,” said Luis Videgaray, the nation’s foreign minister. “From conviction and by constitutional obligation, we cannot remain indifferent before an inhumane and cruel situation.”
Offering yet another example of what has been a seemingly endless string of horrifying stories of family separation, Videgaray detailed the “particularly painful” case of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who had been separated from her mother and brother. The girl was sent to a facility in McAllen, Texas, while the mother was sent to Brownsville to await prosecution. “We are working to release the girl so she can reunite with her father,” said Videgaray, noting that the father was an American citizen.
Later on Tuesday, the issue was brought up on Fox News by Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas, who was a guest on the network alongside Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager and eternal cable news surrogate. Lewandowski, who came under fire for assaulting a female reporter during the 2016 campaign, wasn’t exactly moved by the plight of the disabled child.
“Womp, womp,” he blared over Petkanas.
.@Zac_Petkanas says on Fox News a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome was separated from her mother at the border.
Corey Lewandowski responds: “Womp womp.” pic.twitter.com/cZMXWmwbjw
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) June 19, 2018
“Lots of Fake News today,” Lewandowski tweeted Wednesday morning. “I mocked a liberal who attempted to politicize children as opposed to discussing the real issue which is fixing a broken immigration system. It’s offenseive that the MSM doesn’t want to talk about the fact these policies were started under Obama.”
Rolling Stone attempted to reach Lewandowski for comment Wednesday morning, but a call to his phone went unanswered.
Several Trump administration officials including Chief of Staff John Kelly, Senior Adviser Stephen Miller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have admitted the “zero tolerance” policy was their own doing and that family separation at the border is being used as a deterrent.
Lewandowski’s callous dismissal of such a heart-wrenching story was despicable, but the administration is running out of respectable allies willing to go on TV to defend the policy. As images, audio and anecdotes describing the atrocities taking place at the border have continue to emerge, even Trump’s most faithful supporters have spoken out against family separation. Senator Lindsey Graham said Trump “could stop the policy with a phone call.” Utah’s Orrin Hatch called it “wrong,” while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for a “narrow solution” to fix the problem.
Elsewhere, top-tier Trump supplicant Ted Cruz even introduced emergency legislation to keep families together. Though many of the Republican lawmakers speaking out against the policy have refused to sign a Democratic bill that would end family separation, they are unable to defend it, forcing the administration to rely on figures like Lewandowski and the propaganda peddlers who appear nightly on Fox News.
All four former first ladies have also released statements criticizing the policy, with Laura Bush comparing the treatment of those crossing the border to the Japanese internment camps the United States constructed during World War II. Nine governors have announced they are pulling National Guard deployments from the border in protest. The head of the American Academy of Pediatrics has called the policy child abuse, while the UN’s top human rights official described the practice as “unconscionable.” On Tuesday, Trump removed the United States from the UN’s Human Rights Council.
Religious leaders have roundly denounced the policy, as well. Reverend Franklin Graham, the son of the late Billy Graham and usual ardent Trump supporter, called the policy “disgraceful.” Days after Jeff Sessions attempted to use the Bible to defend the policy, over 600 members of his own church signed a letter condemning Sessions. Cardinal Timothy Dolan told CNN there is no Biblical justification for forcibly separating mothers from their children, adding that the policy “goes against human decency.”
On Wednesday morning, Pope Francis weighed in on Twitter.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 20, 2018
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 20, 2018
Not only have Trump and his administration refused to budge, they’ve doubled down. The president has repeatedly blamed Democratic lawmakers for refusing to fix immigration laws he described Wednesday morning as “the weakest and worst anywhere in the world,” adding later that the situation at the border is “the Democrats fault.” But Trump isn’t interested in simply closing the “loopholes” the administration has repeatedly referenced as the reason they were forced to institute the policy separating families. The president is also demanding $25 billion in funding for a border wall, for legal immigration to be curbed and for other measures aimed at preserving the whiteness of America. Until he has those things, the children can suffer.
Despite telling reporters on Monday that only Congress can fix the issue, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is reportedly drafting an executive order that would end the policy separating parents from children (via Politico), although it’s unclear if Trump would be open to signing it. “I’ll be signing something in a little while that’s going to do that,” Trump told reporters. “I’ll be doing something that’s somewhat preemptive and ultimately will be matched by legislation I’m sure.” On Tuesday, Nielsen was harassed into leaving a Washington D.C. Mexican restaurant by a group of activists who oppose the policy.
A few hours after Lewandowki dismissed the story of the girl with Down syndrome, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow broke down on live television while reading a report about how young children are being held in “tender age” shelters.
Rachel Maddow chokes up and cries on air as she struggles to deliver news that migrant babies and toddlers have been sent to “tender age” shelters pic.twitter.com/O6crm8cvyR
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) June 20, 2018
Maddow later apologized on Twitter before reading from the Associated Press story on the shelters: “Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents to at least three ‘tender age’ shelters in South Texas. Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the ‘tender age’ shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. Decades after the nation’s child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is standing up new institutions to hold Central American toddlers that the government separated from their parents.
“‘The thought that they are going to be putting such little kids in an institutional setting? I mean it is hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,’ said Kay Bellor, vice president for programs at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, ‘Toddlers are being detained.'”