Kidnapping Children, Deporting Parents – the Sadistic Heart of a Fascist Regime



Immigrants held under a bridge in El Paso, Texas, April 2019. Photo: @IGD_news


The Trump/Pence regime’s depths of cruelty are boundless. This week, a court document filed by regime lawyers revealed that the parents of 545 immigrant children kidnapped and systematically separated from their parents by the U.S. government in 2017 have not been located. This means that many of these families will possibly never be reunited.

In 2017, the fascist regime began a “pilot program” of tearing apart immigrant families seeking asylum at the U.S./Mexico border. In 2018, this became encoded as the government’s “zero tolerance” policy. Separating families was the point of “zero tolerance”—coming from the top levels of the regime—it was not a byproduct, or something taken too far by low-level enforcers. As outrage and protest against separating and deporting families and putting children in cages broke out across the U.S., fascist commander Trump bellowed, “the United States will not be a migrant camp ... not on my watch.”

Jeff Sessions, at that time the Attorney General, announced, “If you smuggle illegal aliens across the border, then we’ll prosecute you for smuggling. If you’re smuggling a child [i.e., if you’re a parent seeking asylum with your child], then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law.” The New York Times reported that Sessions’ top deputy, Rod Rosenstein, “went even further in a second call about a week later,” telling prosecutors that “it did not matter how young the children were.” He told prosecutors that Sessions’ goal was “to create a more effective deterrent so that everybody would believe that they had a risk of being prosecuted.”

Over 5,000 children, including infants, were separated from their parents during both phases of this U.S. government policy. Many were locked in cages and held in freezing jail cells. 

In June 2018, a federal court ordered the government to end family separations and to reunite families torn apart after Sessions’ announcement of “zero tolerance.” In January 2019, a judge ordered that the federal government also search for the 1,556 children separated from their parents during the year of the “pilot project.” Most of these parents had long been deported, and the children released to sponsors—some to other family members or friends of the parents, some to foster care. Lawyers working with the group Justice in Motion1 began searches in Mexico and Central American countries to find parents of children still in the U.S. But their work was made much more difficult than it already was with the onslaught of the coronavirus. And this week it became known that 545 children still had not been reunited with a parent.

The pain inflicted on all these children is incalculable, and lasting. In a Scientific American article, Alan Shapiro, an assistant clinical professor in pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, examined the psychological and physical harm caused by family separation. He said that the “younger you are when you’re exposed to stress … the more likely you will have negative health outcomes…” These health issues can lead to “architectural changes in the brain—which means that in the future [separated] children might end up with serious learning, developmental and health problems” and “long-term chronic medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, higher rates of cancer and a decrease in longevity.”

The fascist Trump/Pence regime is still imprisoning and deporting children—some as young as one year old—at the border. Children taken into Border Patrol custody, with or without their parents, are put in hotels, where they are “supervised” by transportation workers. The hotels are outside the formal detention system, and not subject to policies that supposedly prevent abuse or require access to phones, healthy food, and medical and mental health care. Parents and lawyers have no way of finding these children or monitoring their well-being while they are in custody, which lasts until the children are put on a plane back to their home country.

For years the fascists in power have persisted in policies that maximize separation of immigrant families. Every time a legal obstacle is put in their way, they soon brush it aside. As Bob Avakian wrote in his series Donald Trump - GENOCIDAL RACIST, “Many people have pointed out that all this is the kind of thing Hitler did to ‘demonize’ and ‘criminalize’ Jews as he put them in concentration camps, and then murdered 6 million of them.”



Parents of 545 Children Separated at U.S. Mexico Border Still Can’t be FoundNPR, October 20, 2020.

Officials said in 2017 that separated migrants under 12 couldn’t find parents on their ownNBC News, October 9, 2020.

How COVID-19 Has Impacted the Search for Separated FamiliesKQED, September 21, 2020.

Jeff Sessions and Kirstjen Nielsen defend the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policyCNBC, June 18, 2018.

Lawyers can’t find the parents of 545 migrant children after separation by TrumpVox, October 21, 2020. 

Federal judge orders reunification of parents and children, end to most family separations at borderCNN, June 27, 2018.

Separating Families May Cause Lifelong Health DamageScientific American, June 20, 2018.

A Private Security Company Is Detaining Migrant Children at HotelsNew York Times, August 16


1. The U.S. government has not made any effort to marshal its human and technological resources to try to find the parents it deported and reunite them with their children. The arduous task of actually locating parents deported from the U.S. to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador has fallen mainly on a group of conscientious and courageous volunteers with Justice in Motion, a nonprofit organization staffed by volunteers.

CNN described how Dora Melara, a lawyer who volunteers with Justice in Motion, heads into remote parts of Honduras, looking for clues in cases she never imagined would take this long to solve.“There are places where you practically have to climb mountains to get there. And when you arrive, they say, ‘He doesn’t live here anymore.’” The task of Melara and other volunteers has been made much more difficult because of the spread of the coronavirus. But she said, “This is something that is still affecting many families. Until each one of the parents has been found, for me, this is not over.” Even when she spends days trying to locate a parent, often in a remote village,only to learn that the parent is no longer there, she said she and others don’t despair. “We think of it as, ‘now we've taken the first step to find them.’”  [back]

McAllen, TX, March 2019. Photo: AP

The Ursula detention facility in McAllen, Texas, June 2018. Photo: U.S Customs and Border Patrol/PAP/EPA.



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