Although other scandals — like Ukraine — have since risen, the Trump administration’s punitive separation of thousands of migrant parents and children continues to affect those subjected to it. Now, Los Angeles-area federal Judge John A. Kronstadt has demanded that the Trump administration immediately begin providing those migrant families that they separated with services supporting their mental health.
Lawyer Mark Rosenbaum — who helped bring the case that sparked Kronstadt’s ruling — insisted:
‘You cannot have a policy of deliberately trying to injure a family bond. Cruelty cannot be part of an enforcement policy, and here it was the cornerstone of the policy.’
Dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law Erwin Chemerinsky added:
‘This is truly groundbreaking. The court is recognizing that when a government creates a danger that inflicts trauma, the government is responsible for providing a solution. It is not something I have seen a court do before.’
The New York Times notes:
‘In his ruling, Judge Kronstadt referred to previous federal cases that found that governments can be held liable when with “deliberate indifference” they place people in dangerous situations… In this case, the judge said, the Trump administration could be held accountable for the enduring psychological harm brought about by forcibly taking children from their parents at the border with no guarantee of when or how they would be reunited.’
The restitution that Kronstadt demanded includes mental health screenings and counseling for those affected by the family separations. In previous cases, the same legal doctrine of holding the government liable for harms it had created had been applied to situations like dangerous workplace conditions at public employers.
The Times does note that considering precedent, the Trump administration seems likely to appeal Kronstadt’s decision. President Donald Trump himself has repeatedly personally advocated for family separations, at times bemoaning that he’d been pressured into stopping them, which at other both self-contradictory and false points, he’d claimed had originally began under the Obama administration in the first place. The Trump administration’s idea is that separating families could be a deterrent for potential future asylum seekers — although just to be abundantly clear from the get-go, seeking asylum is a legally protected right.
In Congress, Democrats have sought to hold the Trump administration accountable for their family separations through means like a publicly accessible, July 2019 hearing about the issue. In one particularly absurd moment exemplifying the Trump administration’s stance, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) asked top Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) official Brian Hastings whether a three-year-old girl who’d been separated from her family and alone in the system for well over a month was a national security threat. Hastings insisted — wait for it — that he didn’t know. Again, we’re talking about a small child here.
The Trump administration has attempted numerous means besides family separations to curtail the legal rights of immigrants.
Besides the infamous wall project, these schemes have included attempts to close off asylum entirely to large segments of those seeking it, despite the complete lack of evidence to support Trump’s assertion that there is any kind of especially dangerous situation at the southern border.