Views from Kansas: U.S. owes it to immigrant families to make them whole again

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

It was good news of a sort last week when President Donald Trump stopped defending the indefensible and signed an executive order that he claimed would stop the separation of immigrant families at the Southern border.

The “zero tolerance” policy of Trump and his administration, which resulted in more than 2,000 children being taken from their parents and confined by the government, created the humanitarian disaster. For a country that likes to think of itself as a world leader in human rights, the sight of young and vulnerable girls and boys behind wire partitions, crying for their parents, was a living nightmare.

The end of that self-declared policy would have been better than Trump’s cobbled-together order, which requests instead that families be detained as a unit. It would have also been good if the order had been vetted — early news reports suggest that agencies across the government aren’t quite sure how to interpret the text.

But the newest and most pressing challenge is reuniting children and their parents.

It’s a challenge that has touched Topeka itself, as news filtered out that The Villages, a group home located here, has taken in separated children. Think about that for a moment: Innocents taken from their parents are here, in northeast Kansas, alone and scared.

We trust that The Villages and those overseeing the program will take exemplary care of the youths. But it’s most important now to bring families back together — and the federal government doesn’t appear to have a plan in place to do so.

A Department of Homeland Security official told NBC news that 500 children have been reunited, but few other specifics were offered besides the suspiciously round number. News outlets have likewise reported that the federal government is working on a centralized program to bring the children and their families back together.

That’s good news, although again it’s good news of a sort. If a president and his administration creates a humanitarian crisis of their own accord, one might hope that same president and administration would have considered the aftermath created by their actions. One might hope that such a centralized program would have been created before the separations began.

Uncertainty lingers. But here is one certainty: As long as children are apart from their families, they are being mentally harmed in the name of the United States. As long as these kids are in a group home — even one offering the very best services — they are suffering profound trauma that will last their entire lives.

Our government did this. Our leaders did this. We owe it to these children to make their families whole again, and as soon as possible.

— Originally published in the Topeka Capital-Journal

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