The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful practice for good.
There is no justification for traumatizing children or using them as political pawns, and Democrats should join Republicans in pasing legislation narrowly tailored to outlaw this policy.
President trump initiated this crisis, his executive order still leaves issues unresolved and it's up to Congress to prevent another travesty like this from ever happening again.
Trump signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon ending the family separations occurring as a result of his "zero tolerance" immigration policy that resulted in the children being sent to separate detention facilities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 2,300 children have been taken from their families; a privately contracted facility near Miami that was holding 94 children refused to allow three Florida Democratic lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, to inspect the facility.
The president employed this shameful tactic to try to bully Congress into funding a border wall that he long vowed Mexico would pay for, and he continued to lie to the American public by insisting his hands were tied by existing law passed by Democrats. His about-face on separating children from parents following a global outcry is a good result. But it's not good enough, and it's unclear how it fits in with a 1997 court settlement limiting the duration of child detentions to no more than 20 days. Any president could change an executive order overnight, and this president lacks the judgment to have the discretion to move these families at will.
Trump said during a White House meeting with lawmakers that the executive order reversing the practice of separating children from parents would be a pre-emptive strike that Congress should build on with legislation. It's a challenge Congress should take up with a clean bill that outlaws the separation of families as they wind through the immigration system. Keeping families intact is an ideal that Republicans and Democrats should agree on — and congressional Republicans should not consider the matter closed any more than Democrats should eschew a deal to leave Republicans on a limb. The House plans to take up more comprehensive immigration legislation today, but the better approach now is to deal directly with the current crisis than to get bogged down in other significant policy difference.
Trump reversed course not because it was the right thing to do but because the White House and congressional Republicans were being hammered in a crisis of their own making. This was a poll-driven decision on a policy the vast majority of Americans found reprehensible (as did Pope Francis and the British Prime Minister, Theresa May). Still, the president would not commit on Wednesday to signing a stand-alone bill outlawing the practice. The president's national security team worked in equally bad faith to mischaracterize and carry out this inhumane policy. Congress should prevent it from happening again by passing a bill outlawing the practice. There is no need for Congress to wait on a comprehensive immigration bill to remove an abusive policy that should not be on the table.