(AP) — Reports about the separation of families under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy continue to have an impact. While federal officials say they are trying to work out how to reunite immigrant children and parents who have been detained in separate facilities, a news show host has been reduced to tears on live TV while reading an Associated Press account of those divisions.
A look at the latest developments:
‘TENDER AGE’ SHELTERS
The Associated Press has learned that babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border are being sent to “tender age” shelters in South Texas.
Play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis were described by lawyers and medical providers who visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters. The government plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday.
Since the White House announced its zero tolerance policy in early May, more than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, resulting in a new influx of young children requiring government care. The government has faced withering critiques over images of some of the children in cages inside U.S. Border Patrol processing stations.
Decades after the nation’s child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is starting 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, which provides foster care and other child welfare services to migrant children. “Toddlers are being detained.”
Bellor said shelters follow strict procedures surrounding who can gain access to the children in order to protect their safety, but that means information about their welfare can be limited.
By law, child migrants traveling alone must be sent to facilities run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services within three days of being detained. The agency then is responsible for placing the children in shelters or foster homes until they are united with a relative or sponsor in the community as they await immigration court hearings.
Rachel Maddow, host of her eponymous show on MSNBC, broke down while she was live on the air sharing the AP’s exclusive story describing these shelters. After trying to get through the first couple of sentences, she said, “I’m sorry. I think I’m going to have to hand this off,” ending her segment.
Maddow later apologized on Twitter:
Ugh, I’m sorry. If nothing else, it is my job to actually be able to speak while I’m on TV. What I was trying to do — when I suddenly couldn’t say/do anything — was read this lede:
“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.”
… Again, I apologize for losing it there for a moment. Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile.
DUELING CONGRESSIONAL ACTION
GOP leaders in the House are trying to pull together a revised version of a broad immigration bill that would mandate keeping immigrant children in detention indefinitely, but housed with their parents.
In the Senate, Republicans are backing a narrower bill that would allow detained families to stay together in custody while expediting their hearings and possible deportation proceedings.
Trump declared Tuesday he is “1,000 percent” behind the rival bills .
NO PLANS ON HOW TO REUNITE FAMILIES
Trump administration officials say they haven’t yet figured out how to reunite the thousands of children separated from their families at the border.
“We’re still working through the experience of reunifying kids with their parents after adjudication,” said Steven Wagner, an acting assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Federal officials have set up hotlines and an email contact for parents seeking information about how to find their children.
“They should just give the kids back to their parents. This isn’t difficult,” said Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union.
IMPACT ON CHILDREN GRIM
The American Medical Association’s chief executive officer is demanding an end to the practice of separating children from their parents at the southern border.
Dr. James Madara said in the letter to the Trump administration Tuesday that childhood trauma and adverse childhood experiences created by inhumane treatment often create negative health impacts that can last a lifetime.
Madara sent the letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Some argue that the policy is nothing new and that the United States of America has a history of breaking up families, detaining children and sanctioning others who do so.
BUSINESS LEADERS BLAST POLICY
Some business leaders have condemned the “zero tolerance” policy, but the potential impact of their complaints is unclear.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he’s donating money to groups that provide legal advice and translation services for immigrant families at the border. He asked others to do the same.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted that the stories and images about separated families are “gut-wrenching.” In an interview with The Irish Times, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the policy is “inhumane” and must stop. And in a joint statement, the three founders of Airbnb said separating kids from their families is “heartless, cruel, immoral and counter to the American values of belonging.”
Conservative-leaning business lobbying groups also weighed in. The Business Roundtable, which represents the CEOs of Walmart, General Motors, Boeing, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard and others, urged an immediate end to the policy. So did the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 3 million small and large businesses.
GOVERNORS PULL RESOURCES FROM BORDER
In a largely symbolic but politically significant rejection of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, the governors of multiple East Coast states have announced that they will not deploy National Guard resourcesnear the U.S.-Mexico border.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, announced Tuesday morning on his Twitter account that he has ordered four crewmembers and a helicopter to immediately return from where they were stationed in New Mexico.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who like Hogan is a Republican governor in a blue state, on Monday reversed a decision to send a National Guard helicopter to the border, citing the Trump administration’s “cruel and inhuman” policy.
On the Democratic side, governors in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New York and Virginia have all indicated their refusal to send Guard resources to assist with immigration-related issues.
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