Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) had just six simple words to say when he shared the news that President Donald Trump's administration has no way to track migrant children who've been separated from their parents: "This is what evil looks like."
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 ACLU, in addition to condemning the administration, announced that a court date has been scheduled for February 21.
This response is a shocking concession that the government can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from p… https://t.co/vI19S9kNHt— ACLU (@ACLU) 1549076843.0
The news stunned many who concurred with Merkley's sentiments and amplified calls for the president's impeachment and removal from office.
@SenJeffMerkley How is this not grounds for immediate calls for resignations, criminal investigations and charges?… https://t.co/rS0ODE8qg5— NaomiPDX (@NaomiPDX) 1549295594.0
@SenJeffMerkley Thank you Sen Merkley for keeping this horrendous tragedy in the forefront. Trump and Nielsen don’… https://t.co/Xqw9zET5k3— cydney linden (@cydney linden) 1549293943.0
@SenJeffMerkley @NormOrnstein Honestly, this should be prosecutable. By an international court or something. The la… https://t.co/PfgRhNwbnH— garden bev (@garden bev) 1549297455.0
Merkley has previously spoken out against the Trump administration on the issue of family separation. On Friday, he announced that he would bring Albertina Contreras Teletor and her 11-year-old daughter, Yakelin Garcia Contreras, who were separated for two months after attempting to cross the U.S-.Mexico border, as his guests to the president's State of the Union address.
“This child separation policy came from a dark and evil place within the heart of this administration,” Merkley said in a statement. He added:
“I’m bringing Albertina and Yakelin as my guests to the State of the Union because we need to bear witness to the suffering that this cruel policy inflicted, and resolve to make sure that nothing like this ever happens in the United States of America again.”
President Trump's "zero tolerance" family separations 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.
The day before the Associated Press report dropped, an audio clip obtained by ProPublica garnered significant attention for revealing the sounds of detained children sobbing for their parents. At one point, a Border Patrol agent jokes, “We have an orchestra here.”
New: ProPublica has obtained audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, in which children can… https://t.co/lLynq6poIx— ProPublica (@ProPublica) 1529351595.0
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.