By now, we’re all familiar with kids in cages, yes? In fact, it’s been part of our national consciousness for quite some time now – long enough for it to have faded from mind with all the other things happening in the world. But for those families, and for those children – it will never fade from mind. Jacob Soboroff is one of the excellent reporters who helped to make sure the public knew what was happening. His book will, hopefully, help to bring this tragedy back around to our collective consciousness so that it actually STOPS happening – and never happens again.
Soboroff makes very clear that he was chasing another, completely different border story when the Trump administration began to seriously consider taking kids from their parents as a deterrent policy. He *also* makes very clear that, while President Obama’s administration considered the same policy? They decided NOT to go ahead with it. But by late 2016, as election season was ramping up, the Border Patrol began doing it anyway. Then came Trump.
He weaves the timeline through the beginning of the murmurs about separation, before he even knew about it, all the way through to now – when so many of the cast of characters are still involved in the Trump administration – and are botching the COVID crisis, just as they did the migrant one. He makes it clear as well – there is plenty of blame to go around. The Obama administration, in attempting to handle the crisis, opened the door to this – and Trump walked right on through.
This is a story that haunts those who reported it, who dealt with it, and who lived it. It’s ALSO a story that should haunt the rest of us, because this IS STILL HAPPENING. As he says in his author’s note: “Since the summer of 2017, the Trump administration has taken at least 5,556 kids from their parents. But still today, nobody knows for sure exactly how many families have been separated.[emphasis mine]”. The Border Patrol didn’t even bother to keep accurate records – and there are some children who are now orphans, when they should not be, because their parents were sent back without them.
Ultimately, this is a story of an administration willing to do anything – regardless of the morality, the ethics, or the damage – to make good on an impossible campaign promise. Anything, that is, except to do what actually worked – while the separations were at their peak, this administration was also canceling the aid to Central America that was funding programs that worked to help fix the migration crisis.
This is *also* a story of those rare folks who saw what was happening and tried to prevent it. When it became clear prevention was not possible, they did everything they could to try and ameliorate the damage. Unfortunately, the odds were stacked against them, and so we learn about Juan and his son Jose – two migrants who were running to escape with their lives from a drug cartel, and ended up in the United States just as the separation policy really took hold. Their stories are threaded throughout the book, as we see the system that failed them in all its ugliness. A system that continues to this day – one that we must NOT forget, and must hold accountable for the torture of so many people.