It turns out Trump's child separation policy was even more monstrous than we knew

Of all the harsh immigration policies the Trump administration has enacted, from slashing America's refugee resettlement program to building "The Wall," taking thousands of children away from their parents is by far the worst. The "zero tolerance" policy of separating families at the border drew so much international outrage that the administration eventually abandoned it and was ordered by the courts to reunite the families. In some cases, that process took far more than a year.

Now, an investigation shows that the implementation of the policy was even more inhumane than we knew.

According to the New York Times, five prosecuting attorneys who were told about the new policy in May of 2018 "recoiled" when Attorney General Jeff Sessions told them "We need to take away the children." The attorneys told officials in the Department of Justice that they were "deeply concerned" about the welfare of the children subject to that policy.

A week later, deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein told the prosecutors on a call that it didn't matter how young the children were. Government attorneys had apparently refused to prosecute two cases in which the children were barely more than infants, and it was made clear that they should not have done that.

"Per the A.G.'s policy, we should NOT be categorically declining immigration prosecutions of adults in family units because of the age of a child," John Bash, the departing U.S. attorney in western Texas, wrote to his staff immediately after the call. Bash was the one who had declined the cases involving babies, but Rosenstein overruled him.


This information comes from a draft report of a two-years investigation by the DOJ's inspector general, which included more than 45 interviews with key officials in addition to emails and documents. Officials say the final report could change, but what was revealed is shocking, even for those who are familiar with the policy and its implementation.

ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt expressed his shock at the report on Twitter.

Among the revelations in the report:

- A secret pilot program in 2017 along the Mexico border in Texas alarmed government attorneys. "We have now heard of us taking breastfeeding defendant moms away from their infants," one government prosecutor wrote to his superiors. "I did not believe this until I looked at the duty log."

- Border Patrol was stretched so thin from the family separation prosecutions that they missed serious felony cases, with one Texas prosecutor warning the DOJ that "sex offenders were released" as a result.

- U.S. Marshals had no warning before the policy was announced, which led to overcrowding and budget overruns because there was not preparation for it.

- DOJ officials have long claimed that they thought children would be reunited with their parents within hours, but there was no actual plan in place to get families reunited. "We found no evidence, before or after receipt of the memorandum, that DOJ. leaders sought to expedite the process for completing sentencing in order to facilitate reunification of separated families," the inspector general wrote.

Reading the NTY report, when confronted with who was ultimately responsible for the welfare of the children and for reuniting the with their parents, the officials involved in the policy either refuse to comment or point fingers elsewhere. No one wants to be the one to say, "I'm the monster," and of course the individual ultimately responsible for all federal policy is the president himself.

In fact, according to the Times:

"Gene Hamilton, a top lawyer and ally of Stephen Miller, the architect of the president's assault on immigration, argued in a 32-page response that Justice Department officials merely took direction from the president. Mr. Hamilton cited an April 3, 2018, meeting with Mr. Sessions; the homeland security secretary at the time, Kirstjen Nielsen; and others in which the president 'ranted' and was on 'a tirade,' demanding as many prosecutions as possible."

When "Prosecute 'em all!" becomes the policy or even misdemeanor illegal entry cases of asylum-seekers crossing the border in an area other than a port of entry, and no one plans for the fallout, chaos is inevitable and children ultimately pay the price.

"The department's single-minded focus on increasing prosecutions came at the expense of careful and effective implementation of the policy, especially with regard to prosecution of family-unit adults and the resulting child separations," the draft report said.

And what of the Border Patrol agents charged with carrying out the assignment of taking babies out of their parents' arms? One of them spoke to PBS Frontline about what that was like:

Make no mistake—children were traumatized by this policy. How could they not be? And that cruelty was exactly the point. Our government decided that punishing parents by traumatizing children would be an effective deterrent for people trying to enter the U.S., no matter what their circumstances.

There are certain lines that we, as a civilized society, simply should not cross. Knowingly causing harm to children is one of those lines. And the U.S. not only crossed that line, but hurdled over it with Trump's "zero tolerance" policy. Our own "of the people, by the people" government deliberately hurting babies and children is what we should truly have zero tolerance for. Not in our name. Not our watch.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less