Reunited father calls separation 'nightmare'

CNN's Ryan Nobles spoke with families who are back together after a month-long separation.

Posted: Jul 27, 2018 9:00 AM
Updated: Jul 27, 2018 9:14 AM

My heart broke reading their stories.

In May, at a border detention facility, a 14-year-old girl was told she could go to the shower. When she went, her mother was taken away. One day, after being detained crossing the border with his father in June, a 9-year-old boy was too tired to keep his eyes open. When he slept, his father was taken away.

Their families fled to the United States to escape violence. Then our country tore them from their parents, keeping them confined before shipping them thousands of miles away to live in Connecticut—with strangers, in custody sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services.

This is part of the story of the Trump administration's manufactured crisis at our border. It is an outrage and it is child abuse. As a result of its zero tolerance immigration policy, which has treated asylum seekers as criminals, the Trump administration separated nearly 3,000 children from their parents.

July 26th was the court-mandated deadline for the administration to reunify children between the ages of 5 and 17 with their parents. But the Trump administration has failed to meet that deadline. According to the administration's own data, as many as 463 parents have already been deported. Those parents and their children may never be reunited.

The media may have moved on to new crises over Russia or Iran, but this does not mean that this crisis has been solved. As the Congress, we must ensure the Trump administration reunites every single family that it has separated, and without further delay.

When I visited the border at the end of June, it was worse than I imagined. At the Ursula station, children were kept in freezing-cold holding cells with only tin foil blankets to keep them warm. The children and adults were moved to the Ursula Border Patrol Central Processing Center, a massive warehouse with cages that go on and on and with bright lights that beamed 24 hours a day. People were on display. There was no privacy.

At the Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Port Isabel detention facility, I met with 10 mothers, many in tears, worried about their children.

Child health experts have been sounding the alarm about the harm that we are doing to children by separating them from their families. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, "Separations from parents or primary caregivers is one of the most potent traumatic stressors a child can experience, especially under frightening, sudden, chaotic or prolonged circumstances. Such separations may increase children's risk for developing depression, anxiety, separation-related post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms ("traumatic separation") or other trauma reactions."

The 9-year-old who was held in HHS-sponsored custody in Connecticut, according to legal briefings filed on his behalf, "does not sleep well, distrusts adults and is depressed and tearful."

It is a moral imperative and a medical necessity that the administration reunite all the separated families now. Democrats in Congress are committed to ensuring this happens. On July 11th, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the Labor-HHS-Education FY19 funding bill. It accounts for nearly one third of the federal government's non-defense discretionary spending, including the Department of Health and Human Services.

At that markup, my Democratic colleagues on the committee and I advanced some of the first and only Congressional actions to deal with the President's manufactured crisis.

In a bill worth $177 billion, we passed several amendments that would require that the administration start providing firm answers and clear solutions to ameliorate the trauma this administration has inflicted.

One amendment would provide an increase of $10 million for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Child Traumatic Stress Network. With those funds, grantees would be able to provide counseling to children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement who suffered the trauma of separation.

Another amendment would direct the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to submit to Congress a plan outlining how the department would locate and return every child separated. If the Secretary fails to do so, according to the amendment, we would reduce his budget by $100,000 per day.

It is especially important that we take these actions as news emerges that the Trump administration is still separating families, namely children from aunts, uncles, siblings and grandparents. My Congressional colleagues, who visited detention facilities at the border this weekend, confirmed as much. The President's executive order only recognizes parents as relatives. If grandparents cross with their grandchildren, they are still being separated.

This crisis is far from over.

As the Labor-H FY19 bill moves to the floor, I urge the majority to help us keep families together. Do not let the administration evade accountability. We have demanded answers: on the costs of the "zero tolerance" policy, the massive increase in detentions, on record-keeping and on reunification. But we have, to date, received no concrete answers from the Office of Management and Budget or the Department of Health and Human Services.

Importantly, we must not be trading one abhorrent policy for another. During our markup, Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) offered an amendment that would have the result of holding children and their parents in jail-like conditions for an indefinite period of time, essentially overturning the 1997 Flores settlement, which limits the length of time and conditions under which US officials can detain immigrant children. Indefinite incarceration of innocent children is never the solution.

Thankfully, the tide has begun to turn on this crisis, following a bipartisan and national outcry. Last week, a federal judge ordered the two children being held in Connecticut to be returned to their parents. Finally back with her mom, according to her lawyer, the girl said, "It is beautiful to be free."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 697533

Reported Deaths: 13138
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion951321706
Lake50779930
Allen38511669
Hamilton33981404
St. Joseph33279535
Elkhart26810431
Vanderburgh21931393
Tippecanoe21440212
Johnson17325371
Porter17012297
Hendricks16631308
Clark12592190
Madison12223335
Vigo12089243
Monroe11237166
LaPorte10601204
Delaware10241182
Howard9555211
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Hancock7842137
Bartholomew7797152
Warrick7657155
Floyd7501175
Wayne6846196
Grant6724167
Boone647399
Morgan6335137
Dubois6052117
Marshall5709108
Cass5657102
Dearborn564674
Henry5545100
Noble532583
Jackson489469
Shelby474095
Lawrence4305118
Gibson424988
Harrison424870
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Miami369565
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Posey267333
Scott258553
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LaGrange249970
Randolph233379
Washington228429
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Starke199352
Owen190856
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Jay184829
Carroll184520
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Pike129634
Pulaski112245
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Crawford96814
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Martin81915
Warren78315
Switzerland7678
Union69410
Ohio55311
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1037600

Reported Deaths: 18827
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1203461345
Cuyahoga1048492040
Hamilton774221164
Montgomery49484984
Summit44494904
Lucas39105757
Butler37437566
Stark31094890
Lorain23775467
Warren23688291
Mahoning20622581
Lake19698360
Clermont19305226
Delaware17783130
Licking15970205
Fairfield15493195
Trumbull15377458
Medina14662255
Greene14484233
Clark13433287
Wood12547182
Portage12144193
Allen11216229
Richland10899197
Miami10455211
Muskingum8639127
Columbiana8478225
Wayne8451209
Pickaway8388120
Tuscarawas8311239
Marion8297135
Erie7415153
Ross6636145
Hancock6595123
Geauga6449146
Ashtabula6355163
Scioto625299
Belmont5518158
Union550847
Lawrence5435102
Huron5229112
Darke5225121
Jefferson5210147
Sandusky5087118
Seneca5048118
Washington5029107
Athens493654
Auglaize470484
Mercer467884
Shelby453289
Knox4332108
Putnam417298
Madison416157
Ashland408986
Fulton402165
Defiance395096
Brown383855
Crawford3819100
Logan369676
Preble367995
Clinton356859
Ottawa351978
Highland344858
Williams317574
Champaign317055
Jackson304451
Guernsey303348
Perry286449
Fayette276348
Morrow272639
Henry261266
Hardin261063
Coshocton255957
Holmes251499
Van Wert237462
Gallia232146
Pike230931
Adams226151
Wyandot224153
Hocking207057
Carroll187746
Paulding167538
Meigs140838
Noble131737
Monroe128441
Morgan105722
Harrison104836
Vinton80913
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