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Family Separation

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Biden hasn’t been very good on immigration yet, though at least the push back forced him to cave immediately. But one thing we do know is that babies won’t be placed in cages apart from their families. American Progress has a report from earlier in the month on what we should expect on this issue going forward.

Family separation, however, was not only the result of bad acts by individual officials but rather the official policy of the U.S. government. Therefore, collective accountability is required to reckon with the systems that allowed this policy to be carried out and provide full relief. This means that the U.S. government must take official action to reunite families and offer them permanent protection in the United States; make them whole to the greatest extent possible, for example by providing access to mental health care and adequate restitution; and adopt changes to ensure similar abuses do not occur in the future.

Few issues cut through the deafening noise generated during the four years of the Trump administration like family separation. The visceral outrage that people across the country felt about the government carrying out such cruelties led to nationwide demonstrations, widespread news coverage, federal court cases, bipartisan condemnation by members of Congress and former U.S. attorneys,6 as well as an Oval Office signing ceremony in which President Trump purported to end the policy driven by his most trusted advisers.7

By successfully reuniting families separated during the last administration, pursuing individual and collective accountability for this atrocity, and ensuring proper redress, the Biden administration can help to rebuild the public’s faith in government institutions and American ideals, reform broken government systems exploited by Trump officials, and prevent further degradation of the rule of law that could invite future abuses. President Biden’s February 2 executive order on the “Establishment of Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families”8 strongly indicates that the new administration appreciates the work that must be done to achieve collective accountability and to prevent children from being separated from their parents or guardians in the future. However, there remain questions regarding whether individual actors will be held accountable for their conduct and whether separated families will be made fully whole.

I mean, we will see. It was odd to see Biden go full 90s capitulation to Republican talking points on this issue since he hasn’t done that with the economy at all. What it seems to me is that the economy really is what Biden cares about and other issues, be it foreign policy or immigration, are just lower personal priorities for him. I appreciate his actions on the economy very much. But Trump and Herr Miller’s immigration policies must be fully rejected and expunged from acceptability in American life. Doing so requires being as aggressive on these issues as he has been on economics.

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