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 7:33 AM
Updated: Jul 27, 2018 8:14 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."

Huntsville
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 89°
Florence
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 89°
Fayetteville
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 85°
Decatur
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 88°
Scottsboro
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 86°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12743242
Mobile9565206
Montgomery6521148
Madison525030
Tuscaloosa410371
Unassigned347461
Baldwin344323
Shelby320133
Marshall309034
Lee262844
Morgan233017
Etowah207530
DeKalb177113
Calhoun170413
Elmore169438
Walker150264
Houston136412
Russell13422
Dallas131123
St. Clair131016
Limestone128413
Franklin125820
Cullman120112
Colbert115613
Lauderdale113917
Autauga106521
Escambia105416
Talladega98613
Jackson9454
Tallapoosa84979
Chambers83538
Dale82323
Blount7743
Chilton7676
Butler75935
Coffee7475
Covington72620
Pike6907
Barbour5695
Lowndes56724
Marion56724
Marengo54614
Clarke4969
Hale46726
Bullock45411
Winston44411
Perry4364
Wilcox41810
Bibb4164
Monroe4154
Randolph39410
Pickens3849
Conecuh38210
Sumter36218
Lawrence3441
Macon33213
Washington32712
Crenshaw3133
Choctaw27912
Cherokee2637
Geneva2550
Henry2523
Greene25011
Clay2495
Lamar2172
Fayette1985
Cleburne1251
Coosa1012
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 118782

Reported Deaths: 1206
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby22635302
Davidson20185212
Rutherford640453
Hamilton597052
Knox440737
Williamson344825
Sumner336573
Unassigned30809
Out of TN284216
Wilson222923
Montgomery188313
Bradley187412
Sevier18307
Putnam171717
Trousdale15826
Robertson152119
Hamblen137214
Blount124310
Washington12002
Tipton11839
Maury11787
Madison102417
Sullivan93312
Bedford90811
Hardeman87517
Macon85613
Lake7820
Loudon7183
Bledsoe6901
Fayette6708
Gibson6705
Anderson6686
Dickson6662
Dyer6197
Cheatham5737
Jefferson5523
Henderson5472
Lawrence5346
McMinn52420
Rhea5221
Obion5194
Coffee5073
Warren4984
Carter4976
Lauderdale4878
Haywood4576
Hardin4538
Cocke4502
Greene4477
Smith4464
Hawkins4357
Roane4332
Cumberland4126
Monroe4079
Weakley3974
Giles36913
McNairy3665
DeKalb3392
Franklin3134
Carroll2903
Marshall2833
Lincoln2761
White2735
Henry2660
Crockett2604
Johnson2580
Claiborne2550
Hickman2530
Campbell2391
Wayne2252
Marion2164
Chester2112
Decatur1983
Polk1953
Grainger1940
Overton1751
Unicoi1560
Union1500
Cannon1420
Benton1391
Humphreys1203
Jackson1181
Scott1180
Grundy1112
Morgan1031
Sequatchie1020
Meigs1010
Fentress880
Hancock781
Perry770
Clay740
Stewart730
Lewis711
Moore600
Houston570
Van Buren350
Pickett311

Community Events