President Trump’s family separation crisis at the border has not ended. There all still thousands of children who have yet to be reunited with their parents and based on the Administration’s response in reuniting the children of tender age this week, I have zero confidence that the Administration can meet the next upcoming deadline of reuniting the over 2,000 children that remain in HHS’s custody. And now a federal judge has ruled against Trump’s request to indefinitely detain families. Instead of solving the issue, Trump continues to blame immigrants saying this week that they should stay in their violence-plagued countries, instead of fleeing to save their lives.
The Trump Administration created this mess and must move quicker to reunite all families separated by President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy of criminalizing migrants seeking asylum at our southern border. They must stop dragging their feet on finding the parents they already deported when their child remains in detention in the United States.
Make no mistake, this administration’s decision to willingly tear families apart, jail children, and detain those seeking refuge in the United States will go down as a stain on our nation’s history.
As a father and grandfather, I know there is no sound more heart-wrenching than a child crying out, "papa" or "mama." It signals distress from someone too young to explain what is wrong. All that child knows is that "papa" or "mama" can fix it.
I cannot imagine the confusion and fear felt by a child who cries out for their father or mother and no one appears to comfort them. I cannot imagine the anguish felt by parents who were told their children were being taken for a bath only to never return, having been shipped off to child detention facilities often located hundreds of miles away. Nor can I imagine America being a nation that tears families apart.
Yet that is exactly what happened due to the Trump administration's heartless actions.
And their incompetent response to their own crisis was as predictable as it was avoidable. How can someone explain to a 5 year old that her parents were deported back to a country they were forced to flee because it was too dangerous to stay?
Even worse, the emotional and physical trauma that these families have been exposed to is shameful. Recent reports of family reunions have shown the emotional distress of these families. Mothers like Mirce Alba have felt the pain and sadness of being rejected by her 3-year-old son who was so traumatized that he didn’t recognize her after months of separation.
Who would have thought that in this great country shaped by immigrants we would have a need for federal "reunification" -- a term often used after a war-torn country begins to rebuild. Today, America is waging a moral war, where nationalistic slogans have stoked ugliness and fear buried deep inside some. We've seen people carry torches marching in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, shouting the Nazi slogan "blood and soil." We've heard the President judge immigrants based on the color of their skin and the nation of their origin.
Fortunately, the American people refused to stay silent. As audio of crying children poured across social media and our free press made public the images of children detained in cage-like facilities or vast detention centers, Americans loudly said, "No. This is inhumane. This is not America. This is not who we are."
It's unacceptable for the president of the United States, who took an oath to defend the Constitution, to abandon the rule of law. As a Senator elected by the people of New Jersey to defend our interests and our values at both the state and federal levels, I know we have a sworn duty to uphold.
And with the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh this week, it’s more important than ever that we stand up for our values as a nation of immigrants, fighting against the continued attacks of this administration to undermine our most basic rights.
As long as I have a voice, I will use it to defend what is right for Latinos, whether they be immigrants, first-generation Americans, or descendants of those who came to this country many years ago in chains or in search of freedom like my parents did. And I remain fully committed to comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform that respects families who form the foundation of our communities.
This is not a fight that will be won solely inside legislative chambers. It will be won inside the hearts of Americans who will not be bullied into believing we should fear mothers, fathers and children seeking asylum who long for a chance to live in the land of liberty our founders envisioned nearly 250 years ago.
As Americans, as human beings, we must insist the madness at the border stop.
We must insist the Trump administration reunites every child taken from his or her parent with a verifiable and transparent process.
We must insist that children are seen as children and not as political pawns, as the President likes to suggest about anyone that arrives at our border. We must refuse any attempt to use children to advance Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant crusade. We must insist that we never trade due process and the rule of law for hastily written tweets.
As a nation, we must insist on compassionate, commonsense, and comprehensive immigration reform.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently said, "Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral."
I couldn’t agree more.