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Immigration Family Separation

Akemi Vargas, 8, cries as she talks about being separated from her father during an immigration family separation protest in Phoenix on June 18, 2018.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Though Americans had been led to believe it’s over, one of the most horrific stories of the Trump administration is still happening. An American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit alleges the administration is still separating children and babies from their migrant parents at the border on a massive scale, exaggerating parents’ minor infractions to get around a judge’s order banning the practice except when children’s safety is in jeopardy.

U.S. border agents apparently are still determined to send a message to other migrants. There’s no way to determine whether this is by design, but the effect is to pump up President Donald Trump’s xenophobic base. Neither of these motives is justification for traumatizing kids and violating a court order.

The courts should call this what it is — contempt of court — and demand that it stop.

As administration officials have admitted at various times, the original “zero tolerance” immigration policy of separating migrant families at the border was a deliberate attempt to terrorize future migrants from making the journey. When Americans, including prominent members of Trump’s party, became rightly furious about the policy, Trump and his supporters tried to claim it was merely a continuation of the separation policy authorized by former President Barack Obama. As fact checkers have established again and again, this is false.

Previous administrations took children away from parents rarely, only when the children faced imminent danger. The Trump administration, by contrast, separated thousands of children as a matter of policy, not because they were in danger but to deter immigration. History’s judgment will be harsh.

A federal judge last year ordered the separations stopped, saying the government could take migrant children from their families only upon evidence the children would be in danger if they weren’t separated — essentially, applying the same policy of previous administrations. Trump, finally bowing to public outrage, ordered the practice stopped despite his earlier defense of it.

Either border agents have been told to proceed anyway, or they are deliberately defying the president and the court. The ACLU suit alleges that more than 900 children have been taken from their parents since the judge’s order that the practice stop.

To get to that number, border authorities have gotten creative about what constitutes “danger” to the children. They have separated families over minor traffic infractions, old resolved criminal charges and unproven allegations of gang affiliation. One father had his baby daughter taken because she’d slept in a wet diaper. Another lost custody because his speech impediment prevented him from answering agents’ questions.

It should be clear by now that when it comes to immigration enforcement, this administration’s penchant for cruelty is matched only by its contempt for the law. The courts should impose their own “zero-tolerance” rule and finally force an end to this outrage.