New border zero tolerance would mean ‘mass traumatization’ of children: Health official
The point man for the administration’s handling of illegal immigrant children on Tuesday dealt a severe blow to plans to restart the zero tolerance border policy, saying the government doesn’t have the capacity to handle the surge of children that would result.
The children would also be subject to “mass traumatization” should zero tolerance be reinstated and children be separated from their parents, Commander Jonathan White of the U.S. Public Health Service testified to the Senate.
“We do not have the capacity,” Commander White said.
President Trump is reportedly eyeing a return to the zero tolerance policy that proved so controversial when it was first implemented last year. Under that policy, adults caught jumping the border with children were prosecuted for their crime but because the federal criminal justice system can’t hold families, the children were separated and sent to the federal Health Department for care.
The children were not immediately reunited with their parents after their release from jail, leading to a bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill and in the country at large.
President Trump signed an executive order curtailing the practice and a federal judge in California issued an order demanding speedy reunification a process that’s still going on 10 months later.
Commander White said Tuesday that some 50 children separated during the zero tolerance policy still remain in care of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement today. Of those, 16 have been deemed too much of a danger to take their children back, and in another 32 cases, parents have waived their rights to get the children back, instead deciding to leave them here.
Two of the children may still eventually be reunited, Commander White said.