Reunited father calls separation 'nightmare'

CNN's Ryan Nobles spoke with families who are back together after a month-long separation.

Posted: Jul 27, 2018 7:47 AM
Updated: Jul 27, 2018 8:14 AM

My heart broke reading their stories.

In May, at a border detention facility, a 14-year-old girl was told she could go to the shower. When she went, her mother was taken away. One day, after being detained crossing the border with his father in June, a 9-year-old boy was too tired to keep his eyes open. When he slept, his father was taken away.

Their families fled to the United States to escape violence. Then our country tore them from their parents, keeping them confined before shipping them thousands of miles away to live in Connecticut—with strangers, in custody sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services.

This is part of the story of the Trump administration's manufactured crisis at our border. It is an outrage and it is child abuse. As a result of its zero tolerance immigration policy, which has treated asylum seekers as criminals, the Trump administration separated nearly 3,000 children from their parents.

July 26th was the court-mandated deadline for the administration to reunify children between the ages of 5 and 17 with their parents. But the Trump administration has failed to meet that deadline. According to the administration's own data, as many as 463 parents have already been deported. Those parents and their children may never be reunited.

The media may have moved on to new crises over Russia or Iran, but this does not mean that this crisis has been solved. As the Congress, we must ensure the Trump administration reunites every single family that it has separated, and without further delay.

When I visited the border at the end of June, it was worse than I imagined. At the Ursula station, children were kept in freezing-cold holding cells with only tin foil blankets to keep them warm. The children and adults were moved to the Ursula Border Patrol Central Processing Center, a massive warehouse with cages that go on and on and with bright lights that beamed 24 hours a day. People were on display. There was no privacy.

At the Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Port Isabel detention facility, I met with 10 mothers, many in tears, worried about their children.

Child health experts have been sounding the alarm about the harm that we are doing to children by separating them from their families. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, "Separations from parents or primary caregivers is one of the most potent traumatic stressors a child can experience, especially under frightening, sudden, chaotic or prolonged circumstances. Such separations may increase children's risk for developing depression, anxiety, separation-related post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms ("traumatic separation") or other trauma reactions."

The 9-year-old who was held in HHS-sponsored custody in Connecticut, according to legal briefings filed on his behalf, "does not sleep well, distrusts adults and is depressed and tearful."

It is a moral imperative and a medical necessity that the administration reunite all the separated families now. Democrats in Congress are committed to ensuring this happens. On July 11th, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the Labor-HHS-Education FY19 funding bill. It accounts for nearly one third of the federal government's non-defense discretionary spending, including the Department of Health and Human Services.

At that markup, my Democratic colleagues on the committee and I advanced some of the first and only Congressional actions to deal with the President's manufactured crisis.

In a bill worth $177 billion, we passed several amendments that would require that the administration start providing firm answers and clear solutions to ameliorate the trauma this administration has inflicted.

One amendment would provide an increase of $10 million for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Child Traumatic Stress Network. With those funds, grantees would be able to provide counseling to children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement who suffered the trauma of separation.

Another amendment would direct the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to submit to Congress a plan outlining how the department would locate and return every child separated. If the Secretary fails to do so, according to the amendment, we would reduce his budget by $100,000 per day.

It is especially important that we take these actions as news emerges that the Trump administration is still separating families, namely children from aunts, uncles, siblings and grandparents. My Congressional colleagues, who visited detention facilities at the border this weekend, confirmed as much. The President's executive order only recognizes parents as relatives. If grandparents cross with their grandchildren, they are still being separated.

This crisis is far from over.

As the Labor-H FY19 bill moves to the floor, I urge the majority to help us keep families together. Do not let the administration evade accountability. We have demanded answers: on the costs of the "zero tolerance" policy, the massive increase in detentions, on record-keeping and on reunification. But we have, to date, received no concrete answers from the Office of Management and Budget or the Department of Health and Human Services.

Importantly, we must not be trading one abhorrent policy for another. During our markup, Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) offered an amendment that would have the result of holding children and their parents in jail-like conditions for an indefinite period of time, essentially overturning the 1997 Flores settlement, which limits the length of time and conditions under which US officials can detain immigrant children. Indefinite incarceration of innocent children is never the solution.

Thankfully, the tide has begun to turn on this crisis, following a bipartisan and national outcry. Last week, a federal judge ordered the two children being held in Connecticut to be returned to their parents. Finally back with her mom, according to her lawyer, the girl said, "It is beautiful to be free."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 14372

Reported Deaths: 693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds95924
Lauderdale71358
Madison69422
Scott63010
Neshoba58937
Jones56622
Forrest52338
DeSoto5036
Leake40012
Rankin3856
Holmes38524
Jackson30313
Copiah2904
Attala28415
Newton2564
Monroe25225
Leflore25130
Lincoln25024
Harrison2477
Lamar2315
Yazoo2274
Pearl River20631
Pike20311
Adams19015
Lowndes1899
Noxubee1736
Washington1667
Warren1597
Bolivar15411
Wayne1540
Oktibbeha15411
Jasper1524
Smith14511
Covington1431
Clarke13818
Kemper13611
Chickasaw13012
Lafayette1274
Lee1245
Carroll11511
Coahoma1144
Marion1149
Clay1084
Winston1051
Lawrence1021
Simpson950
Hancock8711
Wilkinson859
Yalobusha855
Grenada853
Itawamba847
Montgomery811
Union805
Sunflower783
Jefferson Davis772
Marshall773
Tate741
Tippah7111
Claiborne692
Panola643
Calhoun634
Webster611
Humphreys587
Amite561
Tunica533
Walthall520
Perry503
Prentiss423
Jefferson400
Choctaw342
Stone300
Pontotoc293
Tishomingo280
Franklin282
Tallahatchie261
Quitman250
George211
Benton150
Alcorn141
Greene91
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 16530

Reported Deaths: 591
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2124112
Jefferson1712100
Montgomery154134
Tuscaloosa67813
Marshall6689
Lee53332
Franklin5147
Shelby48419
Tallapoosa41864
Butler39213
Chambers34924
Madison3184
Elmore3137
Walker2991
Baldwin2819
Etowah24411
Dallas2443
DeKalb2413
Morgan2311
Coffee2241
Lowndes22210
Sumter2136
Autauga2053
Houston1884
Bullock1833
Pike1790
Colbert1612
Russell1590
Marengo1556
Lauderdale1532
Calhoun1523
Hale1517
Choctaw1488
Wilcox1347
Barbour1321
Clarke1292
Randolph1257
Marion11911
St. Clair1161
Pickens1014
Talladega1003
Dale990
Chilton971
Cullman960
Greene924
Limestone870
Winston820
Covington771
Jackson752
Crenshaw722
Bibb711
Henry712
Macon712
Washington666
Blount581
Escambia493
Lawrence460
Geneva400
Conecuh351
Coosa351
Monroe352
Perry350
Cherokee342
Clay272
Lamar210
Fayette130
Cleburne131
Unassigned00
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