Opinion

Renée Graham

The Trump administration’s war on children

A family traveling with a caravan of migrants prepared to cross the border last month in Tijuana, Mexico. They planned to apply for asylum.
Hans-Maximo Musielik/Associated Press/File
A family traveling with a caravan of migrants prepared to cross the border last month in Tijuana, Mexico. They planned to apply for asylum.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION is as much of a threat to children as a family of pedophiles living next door to an elementary school.

Education secretary Betsy DeVos hates public schools, though 90 percent of this nation’s children attend them. And DeVos, who understands neither her job nor the Constitution, says school officials should be allowed to alert ICE about undocumented students.

Ben Carson, Housing and Urban Development secretary, wants at least a three-fold increase in minimum rent for those in federally subsidized housing. That proposal would put 1 million children at risk of homelessness, affecting 460,000 households headed by single mothers.

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Despite more than 100 incidents of gunfire on school grounds since his inauguration last year (including on Inauguration Day itself), Trump has done nothing except stay cozy with the NRA. Add in the spike in hate crimes in schools, an increase spurred by this presidency, and I’m still nowhere near naming all the ways that Trump’s tenure is a clear and present danger to society’s most vulnerable.

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That includes his administration’s odious policy allowing US Border Patrol agents to separate from their parents the children of undocumented immigrants trying to enter this country. Earlier this month, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen ordered federal prosecution for those caught illegally crossing the border. Children are kept away from relatives because they cannot be detained in adult jails.

“In the United States . . . if you break the law, you go to jail and you’re separated from your family,” Nielsen said. “It shouldn’t be any different for illegal immigrants.”

During a two-week period this month, 638 adults were held for prosecution; 658 children were separated from them.

Trump condemned the law, although he’s lying about its origins. Over the weekend, he tweeted: “Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there (sic) parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS.”

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Democrats aren’t protecting MS-13. And, no, they didn’t initiate this monstrous law. Nothing requires this administration to separate children from undocumented relatives. The policy is pure Trump. It’s intended as a deterrent to those trying to flee their homelands.

“If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

As the separation stories and photos of children sleeping on floor mats in processing centers gained momentum, many on social media claimed these actions do not reflect who we are as a nation. Anyone who knows anything about this nation’s centuries-long slave era can affirm that they do. Black families were routinely separated — husbands and wives, parents and children sold to different owners. With his policy, Trump is adding new chapters to an ever-expanding racist playbook that existed long before the Declaration of Independence or Constitution.

If you consider yourself a person of faith or conscience, and have no issue with this administration ripping children from their parents, your hypocrisy speaks for itself. Every day, this administration offers another brutal test of our values and humanity. And every day that Trump goes unchallenged, his lies metastasizing, that humanity is hollowed.

Next month, it’ll be three years since Trump launched his White House bid by vilifying Mexican immigrants. His xenophobic base loved it then, and they still lap it up now, whether those immigrants are coming from Mexico or Central America. They don’t care that the impossibly high cost of this president’s divisive “Make America Great Again” fantasies is endangering children.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.