Opinion writer

No matter how many times President Trump insists, there is no “law” requiring the administration to incarcerate families and rip children from their parents’ arms. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), no left-winger, said simply, “No law requires pulling children from the arms of their parents.” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) likewise explains, “The administration’s decision to separate families is a new, discretionary choice. Anyone saying that their hands are tied or that the only conceivable way to fix the problem of catch-and-release is to rip families apart is flat wrong.”

That doesn’t stop Trump of course from lying to the American people about his own heinous policy. The Post reports:

President Trump doubled down Monday on his false insistence that Democrats are to blame for the administration’s forced separation of migrant children from their families at the border, even as a growing number of Republicans urged him to reverse course. . . .

“I say, very strongly, it’s the Democrats’ fault,” Trump said. “They’re really obstructionist. . . . The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility. It won’t be. You look at what’s happening in Europe; you look at what’s happening in other places. We can’t let that happen in the United States, not on my watch.”

Contrary to Trump’s claims, the separations largely stem from a “zero-tolerance” policy announced with fanfare last month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As more families are stopped for illegally crossing the border, adults are taken to detention facilities that are effectively jails, and children are sent elsewhere.

Either out of willful ignorance or abject cruelty, the president will not act to stop child separations. He says he does not like his policy but cannot demonstrate empathy for those affected by ending it.

That leaves Congress. The only legislative vehicle so far to end the separation policy comes from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has introduced the Keep Families Together Act. The bill states, “An agent or officer of a designated agency shall be prohibited from removing a child  from his or her parent or legal guardian, at or near the port of entry or within 100 miles of the border of the United States,” unless one of several conditions is met (e.g., a court order ending parental custody, the child is a suspected victim of traffickers, there is a person from “a child welfare agency with expertise in child trauma and  development makes a best interests determination that it is in the best interests of the child to be removed from his or her parent or legal guardian because the child is in danger of abuse or neglect at the hands of the parent or legal guardian, or is a danger to herself or others). The bill explicitly prohibits separation of “a child from a parent or legal guardian solely for the policy goal of deterring individuals from migrating 10 to the United States or for the policy goal of promoting compliance with civil immigration laws.”

As of this writing, not a single Republican has signed onto the bill, not even Sasse, who thinks the administration’s policy is wicked. However, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), perhaps moved by his Senate opponent Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.), who has energetically investigated the humanitarian disaster and called on the administration, says he will release his own bill.

Meanwhile, the House has come up with two immigration bills, neither of which has a majority, seeking to bury the “dreamer” issue in a mass of other immigration provisions, including money for the border wall and reduced legal immigration. The children are human shields for the quivering House members who fear an irate tweet from the president.

Republicans in Congress and the administration should stay off Twitter, TV, radio and other media and start doing something. Here are 10 suggestions for Republicans in various capacities who remain paralyzed:

  • Members of the administration can quit rather than lie and enforce an immoral policy. (Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen was skewered in the White House briefing room for denying the administration was responsible and pointing the finger at Congress (which is in GOP hands, of course).
  • Members of the Senate can sign onto Feinstein’s bill.
  • Members of the Senate and/or the House can introduce their own standalone bill to end family separation, as Cruz is reportedly doing.
  • Members of the Senate and/or the House can put Nielsen, who denies there is a policy and simultaneously says Trump wants to hold out for a long-term solution, to testify under oath. If she refuses, she can be held in contempt; if she lies, the matter can be referred to the U.S. attorney’s office.
  • Members of the Senate and/or the House can refuse to move on any business, including judicial nominations, until their leaders bring a bill to the floor.
  • Two of the 51 GOP senators (just one, if Sen. John McCain is not expected to return) can stop caucusing with the Republicans and thereby end its majority — unless a vote to end child separation is taken.
  • Republican donors can end donations to any Republican candidate, state or local party, the Republican National Committee, or any PAC supporting GOP candidates unless and until the child separation policy ends.
  • Republican Capitol Hill staffers can walk out if their bosses do not act to end child separation.
  • Republican primary challengers can run ads against the monstrous policy and try to unseat incumbent Republicans who are doing nothing to stop the abuse of small children.
  • Republicans can peacefully assemble and protest with their fellow Americans in opposition to the child separation policy.

You see, unless Republicans are doing one or more of these things, they are doing nothing. They are perpetuating a monstrous policy that amounts to child abuse.

Read more:

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Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ border policy is immoral, un-American — and ineffective