Why Is America So Keen on Separating Families?
January 27, 2022
This week we’re going to talk about families, and a uniquely American hypocrisy surrounding them. On the one hand, politicians are always talking about supporting strong, nuclear families, and in some ways, we do. We give tax breaks to people who get married and have children. Kids eat free at Denny’s on Tuesdays. Yet, also in America, government officials at the federal, state, and local levels are tearing families apart by the thousands under the cover of our laws.
For example, in the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security forcibly separated more than 5,000 migrant parents from their children – some as young as 4 months old – under Trump’s “zero tolerance” border policy. To this day, a thousand children and maybe more are yet to be reunited with their families. They remain stranded and alone.
Candidate Joe Biden had called the policy “criminal. But in December the Justice Department walked away from settlement talks with lawyers representing those families.
And immigration enforcement isn’t the only way we destroy families. The criminal justice system and the child welfare system do it too, in astonishing numbers, and usually to the most vulnerable among us.
To discuss this double-standard–propping up some families while destroying others–the and the continued trauma and ongoing battle of separated families is Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who has steered the border separation litigation from the beginning. Joining him is Shanta Trivedi, assistant professor at the University of Baltimore Law School and faculty director of the Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children, and the Courts – a foremost expert on the law around family trauma.