Trump Would Really Love to Start Separating Families at the Border Again

Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty)

It’s been nearly a year since President Donald Trump signed an executive order officially ending his horrific policy of separating migrant families entering the United States. In that time, however, the president has reportedly had a change of heart—or, at least, returned to his racist roots—and has spent the past several months pushing to reinstate his family separation policy as a means of curbing undocumented immigration at the border.

Citing “three U.S. officials with knowledge of meetings at the White House,” NBC News reported on Monday that Trump has been advocating to tear migrant families on a large scale apart since January—a push that allegedly contributed to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s surprise departure from the White House after she objected to the plan.

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According to at least one official, Trump is convinced that separating families is the most effective deterrent against undocumented immigration, in spite of massive legal opposition and public outcry. However, a June 2018 poll showed a majority of Republicans supported the policy.

News of the president’s wish to renew his family separations comes as Trump has publicly stated he wants to take border security in a “tougher” direction, and just days after he abruptly withdrew his nomination of Ronald Vitiello to be the next head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The push is allegedly part of a larger pivot by Trump advisor/white nationalist Stephen Miller, who reportedly told former White House staffer Cliff Sims that he’d be “happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.”

Should Trump follow through with his plan to reinstate a family separation policy, there’s little evidence that doing so would actually have an impact on immigration levels; a Center for American Progress study last spring showed “monthly number of apprehensions was increasing before the expanded use of family detention in July 2014, continued to increase after, and increased again after the zero-tolerance pilot in July 2017.”

According to court documents filed by the government on Friday, Washington says it could take up to two years to identify the thousands of children already separated from their families over the course of the president’s first anti-immigration push.

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About the author

Rafi Schwartz

Senior writer. When in doubt he'll have the soup.