Senator Isakson and the Kidnapped Refugee Children

In a separate post, IndieDems publishes Senator Johnny Isakson’s reply to our criticism of Trump’s implementation of the “zero tolerance” policy regarding immigrant asylum seekers and illegal border crossers, resulting in the separation of thousands of children from their parents and their detention in inhumane and un-Christian circumstances.

We applaud Isakson’s recognition of the wrongfulness of separating children from their parents and his efforts to end it. The bill Senate Bill 3093 (S.3093) he is co-sponsoring—Senator Elizabeth Warren is one of nine Democratic co-sponsors—is a step in the right direction toward a more on long-term solution to the immigration imbroglio.

But there are many lose ends that Senator Isakson needs to continue to address to bring to an end this shameful episode in American history:

Time frame. The Senate bill is making its laborious way through the Congressional process. It will take weeks, if not months, before it passes the Senate. And then it must get House approval, And President Trump must then sign it into law.

The imprisoned children are suffering trauma and emotional distress every single minute they remain in custody.

Senator Isakson needs to be more pro-active in expediting the process. The children’s release needs to be separated from the longer-term issues and brought to a quick solution. Whatever funds are needed to accomplish that task should be immediately appropriated.

The Trump Administration’s obfuscation of the numbers issue. There is still no authoritative statistics on: the number of children detained, where they are being held, what contact they are having with their parents, how many have been reunited, the timetable for the reuniting of those that remain in custody.

The deliberate confusion—or just gross incompetence—gives the Big Lie to claims that the reunification process is proceeding expeditiously. Activists who have managed to make contact with some children or parents report Trump officials are lying about the ability of children to contact their parents and the rate of reunification.

Senator Isakson needs to take the lead in resolving the numbers issue. He should use his office as a U.S. Senator to find out what agency is keeping the statistics up to date. He should demand a daily accounting of what is going on regarding the children—and make the findings public.

Trump and Sessions’ sick, slick game regarding detention. They claim that a new court ruling ordering that separated children be promptly reunited with their parents amounts to a green light for federal officials to detain them — together. A decades-old court accord, known as the Flores ruling, requires immigrant children be released from custody “without unnecessary delay,” and that when they are held, it be in state-licensed day-care facilities.

The Trump administration now insists that if the new ruling requires the government to reunify and keep families together, then the government will keep the families in detention pending the outcome of their immigration or asylum cases, which typically take months or years to resolve.

But there is no legal requirement that migrant parents be detained while their cases are resolved, and previous administrations used alternative, effective means of ensuring that immigrants who are released pending the adjudication of their cases show up for their court hearings — they include electronic ankle bracelets; telephonic contacts with voice-recognition technology; and mobile phone app check-ins. These methods worked.

A Washington Post editorial summed it up: “That’s a neat bit of lawyerly jujitsu. It attempts to turn a federal judge’s reunification ruling last week…into a rationale for extending the current administration’s cruel crusade against migrant families. As a legal matter, it’s also unsupportable…antithetical to American values, offensive to the law and an affront to decency.”

Other matters Isakson should demand answers to: Are the legal rights of the parents being protected and respected? Do they have adequate legal representation?  How is it to be paid for? What about the parents who have already left the United States? What are the procedures to reunite them with their children?

Recent media reports state that even parents who have the clearance to reunite with their children face massive transportation costs to make the connection. Senator Isakson should take the lead in appropriating funds to meet these travel costs. They would be tiny fraction of the recently passed Agricultural Subsidy bill for rich farmers that Isakson championed and loudly praises.

The potentially horrendous future of some of the children. People knowledgeable about what can happen to children once they are in the clutches of the “authorities” tell us there is no guarantee that all the kidnapped children will ever be returned to their families. Some of them, for example may end up being legally and permanently separated from their parents and placed in the U.S. foster care system. They will then be treated like any child in that system. The parents, at a minimum, would face a long and costly legal battle to get them returned. And, of course, virtually none of the parents who fled their home countries have the money for such a battle.

It would be an unspeakable shock to the conscience for the U.S. Government to kidnap children from a parent because the parent was arrested for a misdemeanor; keep those children in inhumane conditions for months or years; and then use the full majesty of government to find a legal excuse for keeping some of those children from being returned to their parents, family, or legal guardian.

Senator Isakson should take the lead in preventing this Big Brother future from happening. I presume his Chief of Staff, Joan Kirchner Karr; and his Homeland Security and Immigration Legislative Assistant, Michael Black,  are already working overtime dealing with the above issues. IndieDems will closely monitor Isakson, Karr, and Black’s actions to make sure all kidnapped children are returned safely to their families. Any American who failes to use the full power of their office to expedite that solution would reveal themselves as totally lacking a moral conscience.

That reputation would follow them all the days of their lives.

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