The Atlantic magazine during the past week named the Trump administration’s forcible yanking of children out of the arms of their parents at our southern border the number one “unthinkable moment” of Donald Trump’s first two years in office.
“His first two years as president have been such an almost-daily barrage of offenses that narrowing down to a single one seems nearly impossible, but the evil of state-sanctioned kidnapping stands alone,” the magazine says.
Millions around the world are outraged by the migrant crisis. His Holiness Pope Francis, the compassionate pontiff of the Catholic church, has cried out, “Has any one of us wept?”
We knew last year, as a result of a lawsuit that got to the truth, that the Trump administration had taken from their parents at least 2,700 children— some of them infants and toddlers — but a new report from the federal Department of Health and Human Services reveals that thousands more were taken during Trump’s first year in office.
Efforts to track those children have been so feeble that no one knows the precise number or where they are today. Any number of evils may have befallen them: Unscrupulous dealers may well have rounded them up in batches and sold them as migrant labor, or to brokers arranging under-the-table adoptions. Some may be dead.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the Trump Administration over the separations from parents seeking asylum, says the report “reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents... We will be back in court over this latest revelation.”
It’s a crisis that continues. Despite the ACLU’s court order, children kidnapped from families at the southern border are still in U.S. custody, and Trump officials have exploited a loophole in the court order to justify separating even more families. They took an additional 118 children from their parents from July to November.
They are the victims of a terrorizing plan whose cruelty, as the Atlantic magazine says, is so huge it is almost beyond belief. Its intent was to create a horror so frightening that it would stop thousands in Mexico and Central America before they set out for the United States. To have done this to these lost children was cruel. Because it was intentional and punitive, it was absolutely evil.
What must it feel like for teenagers, small children and even infants to have been torn away from their mothers and fathers? Who among us, as children, didn’t have terrifying nightmares of monsters and bogeymen in our closets and under our beds? Our mothers came rushing in, turning on the lights, banishing the horrid darkness, hugging us close to their bodies, wiping away our tears.
The lost children have no mothers when they awake, frightened, in the middle of the night.
“It’s as bad as anything I’ve seen in 25-plus years of doing this work,” says the immigration attorney Lee Gelernt. “Little kids begging and screaming not to be taken from their parents. Parents telling their older kids, ‘Be brave, be brave.’”
Wherever they are, it’s beyond them now to be brave. Specialists say they are showing the effects of separation anxiety. They cry all the time, they have nightmares at night, they can’t sleep, they’re depressed, they can’t eat, they wet their beds, they have headaches and stomachaches, they’re afraid to talk even to someone who speaks their language and they worry all the time about what might happen to them.
Think how you would feel? Think what you would do.
Think who did this.
(Bomboy has written for more than 60 national magazines and is the author of six books.)