Family separation issue highlights lack of coordination

Joel Bautista | The Ticker

Joel Bautista | The Ticker

On June 23, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security released a statement with Health and Human Services amidst President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, assuring the American people that the U.S. government “knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families.” 

How ironic that on May 1, the House Judiciary Committee provided NBC News with emails between Trump administration officials, admitting that they were unable to reunite the parents and children separated at that time. 

Guess we can add that to the list of 10,000 lies Trump has told the American people, along with “Mexico is going to pay for the wall” and that “the noise [from windmills] causes cancer,” PolitiFact reports.  

The initial statement claimed that the DHS and HHS would “access and update” a central database as new information about a parent’s or minor’s location arises. Yet, no database to that extent ever existed. 

Correspondence between HHS data analyst, Thomas Fitzgerald and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director, Matthew Albence, revealed that HHS only had information for “about 60” parents, and the amount of information requested for 2,219 children could not be linked to their parents “in a rapid fashion” since DHS did not have all the relevant information, including alien numbers used to track apprehended migrants, NBC News reports. The agencies exchanged basic spreadsheets and tried their best to reunite separated families, much like college students exchanging last minute contact information for group projects. 

The agencies were completely unprepared to handle a policy that never should have been enforced in the first place. Woe is always bureaucratic miscommunication, or lack thereof. Yet, Trump never told DHS nor HHS about the policy before he announced it. 

Perhaps increased cooperation and communication among the executive branch may ensure coordination. 

Nevertheless, the brash and rash Trump administration proposed and enacted a policy they had no idea how to enforce, leaving the agencies to figure it out and face the brunt of accountability themselves. 

Zero tolerance policies prove difficult to mitigate its effects. Although Trump ended this policy since June 20, children are unfortunately still at HHS shelters where it may take years to reunite them with their families.

Did increased prosecutions and relentless detention policies deter families from attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border? Not when they are fleeing poverty and gang violence and seeking asylum. There has been a recent spike in illegal border crossings, with more than 76,000 migrants crossing the border in February alone, and a majority of them families, The New York Times reports.

Where were the rapists, murderers and drug dealers Trump tried preventing from illegally entering the United States? 

All the world saw were images, headlines, and audio of children crying, parents pleading and border agents joking. 

The fact that the disparity between sympathy and intolerance is so large, it’s arguably hypocritical for a nation whose “Statue of Liberty” displays, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Perhaps there should be an exception clause inscribed below, stating “Tired, poor, and huddled masses accepted, contingent on immigration and socioeconomic status, and ability to pay taxes.” At least then the United States would be a more consistent nation.