During the year and a half in which the U.S. government separated thousands of children from their parents, the Trump administration’s explanations for what was happening were deeply confusing, and on many occasions—it was clear even then—patently untrue. I’m one of the many reporters who covered this story in real time. Despite the flurry of work that we produced to fill the void of information, we knew that the full truth about how our government had reached this point still eluded us.
Trump-administration officials insisted for a whole year that family separations weren’t happening. Finally, in the spring of 2018, they announced the implementation of a separation policy with great fanfare—as if one had not already been under way for months. Then they declared that separating families was not the goal of the policy, but an unfortunate result of prosecuting parents who crossed the border illegally with their children. Yet a mountain of evidence shows that this is explicitly false: Separating children was not just a side effect, but the intent. Instead of working to reunify families after parents were prosecuted, officials worked to keep them apart for longer…
Over the past year and a half, I have conducted more than 150 interviews and reviewed thousands of pages of internal government documents, some of which were turned over to me only after a multiyear lawsuit. These records show that as officials were developing the policy that would ultimately tear thousands of families apart, they minimized its implications so as to obscure what they were doing. Many of these officials now insist that there had been no way to foresee all that would go wrong. But this is not true. The policy’s worst outcomes were all anticipated, and repeated internal and external warnings were ignored.
When I speak to someone of fascist-minded politics, programs…the callous bigotry turned into programmatic cruelty by the worst kinds of bureaucrat, this is a legitimate example of what I’m talking about. Thugs like Trump and his followers haven’t the slightest concern for the lives they have destroyed. They would commit these crimes, again…in a heartbeat. Someone else’s heart, of course.