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An Unsealed Indictment of Trump’s Crimes Against Migrant Families

For a while in 2018, the Donald Trump administration’s “family separation” policy looked like it might become the Stalingrad of his war on immigrants. It was clearly a bridge too far politically, given the global outcry it provoked. Even parts of the Republican party couldn’t stomach it. So Trump retreated strategically on family separation, and intentionally left the program so disorganized that reuniting parents and children became a still-incomplete ordeal.

When the Biden administration took power with promises to humanize the immigration system, it appointed an interagency task force to finally reunite all of the families. But progress has been slow on the difficult cases remaining, largely because of the Trump administration’s poor record-keeping and obstructionism.

The task force reported that as of July 14, almost a year and a half after its establishment, there are still 1,217 children not known to be reunited with their families {although some of these may have found each other but not informed the government). Of these, 276 are “in process for reunification”. But of the rest, 764 have “contact information available but not reunified” and 177 have “no confirmed contact information available and reunification status unknown”. So a total of 941 are not yet in the reunification process. However, the total still not reunited has been reduced by 510 since September 2021.

Biden appointed Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, to run the task force. “The idea of punishing parents who are trying to save their children’s lives, and punishing children for being brought to safety by their parents by separating them, is fundamentally cruel and un-American,” she told Dickerson in 2018, prior to being appointed. “It really to me is just a horrific ‘Sophie’s Choice’ for a mom.”

Learn more about WRC’s work on children and families.