It wasn’t just White House aide Stephen Miller, former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly, and his successor Kirstjen Nielsen. The New York Times reports that a two-year investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general reveals that top Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, including former attorney general Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and his deputy Rod Rosenstein, were also “a driving force” behind the Trump administration policy that led to the state-sanctioned kidnapping of thousands of children at the southern border.
The unpublished draft report said that when U.S. attorneys sought clarification on Sessions’ spring 2018 policy ordering the prosecution of parents who unlawfully crossed the border, both the attorney general and his deputy intended to show no mercy to children would be taken from their parents as a result. "We need to take away children,” Sessions reportedly said. Rosenstein ”went even further in a second call about a week later,” the report continued, “telling the five prosecutors that it did not matter how young the children were.”
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The draft report also confirms what we already knew: Sessions lied to the American public about what has become one of the worst humanitarian disasters in modern U.S. history. As the Times reports, America’s most racist Keebler Elf tried his darnedest to distance himself from his own policy following the immense public backlash to family separation in mid-2018. “It hasn’t been good and the American people don’t like the idea that we are separating families,” Sessions claimed to CBN in June of that year. “We never really intended to do that.”
“That was false, according to the draft report,” the Times said. “It made clear that from the policy’s earliest days in a five-month test along the border in Texas, Justice Department officials understood—and encouraged—the separation of children as an expected part of the desire to prosecute all undocumented border crossers.”
And they did just that. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform said in a 2019 report that officials kidnapped at least 18 babies and toddlers under the age of 2, “including nine infants under the age of one,” from their families and kept them anywhere from 20 days to as long as six months. “Records confirm that the youngest child separated from his parents was a four-month-old baby boy from Romania who was separated from his 35-year old father upon arrival in February 2018,” the report said.
That baby, Constantin Mutu, would remain separated from his parents for five months. The government-sanctioned trauma would be undeniable: “Now more than a year and a half old,” the Times reported that year, “the baby still can’t walk on his own, and has not spoken.”
The draft inspector general’s report also includes disturbing new details on what would come to be known as the “pilot program” that led to the “zero tolerance” policy. While it was Nielsen who in 2018 signed off on the memo that led to widespread separations at the border, the administration had begun separating some families at the border beginning in 2017. This we knew.
This we didn’t know: “Government prosecutors reacted with alarm at the separation of children from their parents during a secret 2017 pilot program along the Mexican border in Texas,” the Times said. “’We have now heard of us taking breastfeeding defendant moms away from their infants,’ one government prosecutor wrote to his superiors. ‘I did not believe this until I looked at the duty log.’”
We believe it, and the fact that the inspector general’s report said that Sessions refused to be interviewed as part of his investigation is damning, to him. Rosenstein also expressed outrage at the investigation’s findings, reportedly saying: “If any United States attorney ever charged a defendant they did not personally believe warranted prosecution, they violated their oath of office.” Guess what, lots of people in this government have done shit that violates their oath of office—starting with the guy at the top.
“Send [Sessions] to The Hague,” Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib tweeted in reply to the report—and that’s the correct response. Should Trump be defeated next month, we must resist all calls to turn the page with a new administration. The children and families damaged from this policy haven’t moved on, so neither can we, and something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be just the beginning of accountability. “All these officials colluded to commit one of the great human rights atrocities in American history,” responded immigrant rights leader Frank Sharry. “It still shakes most Americans to our core. Pure evil.”
Lee Gelernt, lead attorney on the American Civil Liberties Union case that forced the Trump administration to reunite separated families, said in a statement received by Daily Kos “[t]hat the Justice Department would not even agree to refrain from separating babies is shocking. This latest report confirms once again that this was easily one of the cruelest immigration practices in the history of this country. This was child abuse, plain and simple.”