The House Oversight Committee has voted to issue subpoenas to the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services in a move to hold the Trump administration accountable for the human suffering caused by its "zero tolerance" family separations policy at the U.S.-Mexico border.
This represents the first subpoenas of the Trump administration by the new Congress since Democrats took over.
The committee is demanding information related to "the children separated, location and facilities where they were held, details on their parents, information on efforts to restore children to their parents and whether parents were deported," according to a report from NBC News.
"I believe this is a true national emergency," House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said. "When our own government rips children from the arms of their mothers and fathers with no plans to reunite them — that is government-sponsored child abuse."
The House Oversight Committee has sought information related to the family separations policy for the last seven months, but the decision to subpoena the Trump administration received a light rebuke from Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), the committee's ranking Republican, who argued in a letter to Cummings that the committee "should not rush to compel documents from the departments, especially when they have sought to comply with your request voluntarily."
The move was nonetheless cheered on by many who believe the administration should be held accountable for what has been described as a humanitarian crisis at our nation's southern border.
I witnessed first hand the damage done by Trump's family separation policy. Months later families are still being… https://t.co/sOX8fYFrau— Rep. Don Beyer (@Rep. Don Beyer)1551201049.0
Today, @OversightDems voted to subpoena documents from HHS, DOJ, and DHS so we can finally reunite the children who… https://t.co/R2S4aROCRz— Rep. Katie Hill (@Rep. Katie Hill)1551201709.0
Congress needs answers from the Trump Administration about their inhumane family separation policy. How many famili… https://t.co/cAqpShduii— Ann McLane Kuster (@Ann McLane Kuster)1551199032.0
Outstanding! House Oversight Committee subpoenas Trump's Dept. of Homeland Security, Justice, and HHS in family sep… https://t.co/jsfMB5Q1yj— PC: United (@PC: United)1550941931.0
Earlier this month, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) decried the family separations policy as "evil."
This is what evil looks like. https://t.co/YMe6KjdsPt— Senator Jeff Merkley (@Senator Jeff Merkley)1549286073.0
Merkley was responding to an update from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that the Trump administration did not dispute a report that there “may have been thousands more separated kids” than originally reported.
BREAKING: Tonight the Trump administration filed documents that don’t dispute the recent report that there may have… https://t.co/rLo7dBoIkz— ACLU (@ACLU)1549076843.0
The policy, which allowed migrant children to be separated from their parents, was implemented by Jeff Sessions, the former Attorney General.
Following a week of heavy bipartisan opposition the following month, the president signed an executive order halting the policy.
“It’s about keeping families together while ensuring we have a powerful border,” Trump said of the order. He added: “I didn’t like the sight of families being separated.”
The president had previously admitted that his administration’s policy of separating families was a negotiating tool to get Democrats to cave to his demands (which include tougher border security as well as a wall erected along the nation’s southern border).
The tipping point for the end of the short-lived family separations policy appeared to be an Associated Press report confirming that the Trump administration will be operating at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas for migrant babies and toddlers.
The report details government plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, a move which earned harsh rebukes from city leaders. Lawyers and medical providers who have visited these shelters described scenes of migrant children in crisis, many of them crying out for their families.
Medical professionals have also spoken out about the “irreparable harm” to separated migrant children, warning of the effects “toxic stress” can have on a child’s brain development and long-term health.