A few weeks ago our grandchildren spent a week visiting while their parents attended a conference. Each night my six year old grandson woke up anxious because he couldn’t internalize how much longer until his mommy came to get him. As my grandson sought comfort in my bed those first few nights, my thoughts went to the thousands of migrant children on our southern border. If my grandson is whimpering for his mommy in the safety of grandma’s bed, what trauma are those children suffering?

A few weeks ago our grandchildren spent a week visiting while their parents attended a conference.  Each night my six year old grandson woke up anxious because he couldn’t internalize how much longer until his mommy came to get him.  As my grandson sought comfort in my bed those first few nights, my thoughts went to the thousands of migrant children on our southern border.  If my grandson is whimpering for his mommy in the safety of grandma’s bed, what trauma are those children suffering? 

At the time of my grandchildren’s visit, those migrant children were being held in detention centers and foster homes with no assurance that they would ever be reunited with their parents.  Those children are pawns in Trump’s failed “Zero-tolerance policy” intended to use cruelty as a deterrent to anyone seeking to immigrate to the United States. 

When the Trump Administration asked for limited relief from the decades-old Flores Settlement which limits the length of time minors can be held in detention to twenty days. Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the government’s application “is a cynical attempt to shift responsibility to the judiciary for over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action.”  The application was denied.

Government officials had no plan to reunite these families.  However, a court order issued by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw directed the Trump Administration to return the children under five years of age to their parents by July 10.  And children five and older are to be returned to their parents by July 26. 

According to The Washington Post, “The reunited families will then be released [with ankle monitors] and allowed to stay in the United States pending further immigration proceedings – the exact opposite of what President Trump and Attorney General Sessions had hoped to accomplish when they launched the ‘zero tolerance’ effort in May.”

At the July 10 deadline just fifty-four of the 102 youngest children had been returned to their parents.  Still, despite the frustrations and delays, Judge Sabraw suggested that he would be inclined to extend the July 10 deadline.

Returning the approximately 3000 older children by the July 26 deadline will indeed be a daunting undertaking.  As long as the government can show it is making progress, how many extensions will Judge Sabraw have to grant?  How many more nights will those thousands of children lie awake anxiously wondering when their parents will come get them?

When President Trump was asked his opinion of his administration’s failure to meet the July 10 deadline for reuniting the youngest children with their parents he quipped, “Well, I have a solution.  Tell people not to come to our country illegally.  That’s the solution.  Come like other people do.  Come legally.”

It should be noted that a separate Trump Administration policy has also sought to halt asylum-seekers entering the US legally. Immigration policy under Trump ignored established Immigration and Customs Enforcement Directives resulting in 100% of legal asylum-seekers being held in detention indefinitely in five ICE field offices.

However, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington D.C. has ruled that the government may not arbitrarily detain people seeking asylum.  The established ICE Directive must be followed for people who in Trump’s words have “come legally”.   

Trump is attempting to use cruelty as a deterrent to those who cross the border illegally, as well as those legally seeking asylum in the United States.  While the courts can temporarily block Trump’s cruel immigration policies, the real solution is to elect senators and representatives who have the resolve to reverse “20 years of legislative inaction” and pass sensible immigration laws.  Our current GOP Congress has demonstrated it does not have that resolve.

Susanna Smith writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.