Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better life in America. The pictures are heartbreaking, and this cruel policy is another stain on a nation that once stood as a beacon for basic decency and human rights.
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Some 2,000 migrant children were separated from their families in just six weeks in April and May, and the inhumane "zero tolerance'' policy continues to be enforced even as some Republicans in Congress, evangelicals and other supporters of President Donald Trump are finally raising their voices in opposition. Former First Lady Laura Bush calls it "cruel'' and "immoral.'' The House appears poised this week to take up broad immigration legislation that would include a provision to end this unnecessary suffering, but the president could end it himself now.
Instead, Trump continues to lie to the American people and blame Democrats for inflicting this cruelty on innocent children. The president claims a "horrible law'' requires children to be separated from their parents when they cross the border, and PolitiFact has rated that statement false. Just as indefensible is Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoting the Bible to defend this immoral policy. This is a matter of law and human dignity, not religion, and it should offend all Americans regardless of their faith.
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The "zero tolerance'' policy is an outlier of questionable legal standing. Previous Republican and Democratic presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, declined to rip children away from their immigrant parents even as they grappled with sporadic surges of undocumented immigrants crossing the border. The Bush administration generally made exceptions for adults crossing with minor children. The Obama administration kept families together in civil detention facilities, but federal courts ordered they could not be held indefinitely. The Trump administration sets a new low, lies about its origins and has the audacity to declare, as Sessions said Monday, "We do not want to separate parents from their children.'' Then stop doing it now.
The Trump administration essentially argues the immigrant children are collateral damage, because children cannot be held with their parents who are being criminally prosecuted for illegally crossing the border. That doesn't make it right. And that doesn't change the fact that this untenable separation of parents and children is being triggered by presidential fiat, not by federal law.
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The damage done to America's image far exceeds the potential that taking kids from their immigrant parents will deter desperate families from Mexico and Central America who risk their lives to reach this nation. The long-term solutions are more complicated than building a wall or housing immigrant kids in converted Walmarts or in cages in overcrowded, understaffed warehouses. Some of those kids will grow up permanently scarred and pose a far greater threat to America's security than their families do now. To make a lasting impact will take a renewed commitment to improve living and working conditions in Mexico and Central America, a concentrated effort to stop American companies from hiring undocumented immigrants to pick the crops and clean the hotels, and a comprehensive immigration policy.
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What kind of a president inflicts such pain and fear on defenseless children by ripping them away from their immigrant parents just to seek political advantage? What kind of Americans are we if we allow this atrocity to continue on our behalf?