It’s a predictable but no less shameful part of the way the news media works that the urgency and quantity of human suffering in a news story isn’t proportionate to the amount of coverage it gets and that, over time, even stories that have been covered well will slip out of dominant placement in national news. Such is the case for the children who were separated from their parents during the Trump administration’s experiment with psychological torture as a deterrent to border crossings. Hundreds of undocumented children are till separated from their parents, and as MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff reported last night, the latest government court filings show that of the 497 children still separated from their parents, 322 of those kids’ parents have already been deported.
Those deportations make it that much harder for the government and the children’s lawyers to locate their parents, as the Washington Post reported this morning:
Lawyers are cold-calling phone numbers in far-flung Central American villages, and enlisting church pastors and schoolteachers to help. They are spreading the word on radio stations, putting up posters and setting up Spanish-language hotlines. They are trying to reach every parent separated from their children by the Trump administration.
In one case, the government listed a father’s language as Spanish, when he really spoke an indigenous Guatemalan language. When the lawyers reached him, they didn’t have an interpreter, and had to call back.
This was the inevitable result of such a callous policy, deployed hastily and without any plan for reunifying families. Most of the separated families were reunited relatively quickly after a court ordered the government do so, but as time goes on, the kids who remain will be those whose parents are the hardest to find.
So much damage has already been done even to those children who have been reunited. Even a short period away from parents for the very young can be traumatic, particularly with conditions as awful as those at many border facilities. These effects can be seen even in the viral videos of reunification: What should be heartwarming moment turns into a horrifying depiction of the deep psychological trauma these kids endured, with their blank stares and frozen expressions. Some children didn’t even recognize their mothers when they were reunited.
The longer these nearly 500 children remain separated from their parents, the deeper and more indelible their trauma will become. It is a national disgrace and an emergency. But it won’t break the top five stories reporters are talking about today; it’ll be bumped for John McCain’s funeral.