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About time for Trump’s about-face on separation of families

President Donald Trump with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen

President Donald Trump with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, left, and Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday before signing an executive order to end family separations at the border. Credit: AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

In forcing President Donald Trump to retreat on his policy of separating children from parents when families cross into the United States without permission, Americans of conscience demonstrated the power of outrage. Using widespread, unrelenting and bipartisan condemnation, we the people reminded the world that we are not a nation that allows inhumane treatment of the most vulnerable.

Since April, the Trump administration has pursued a zero-tolerance policy, charging nearly every adult crossing into the United States at its Southern border as a criminal, and taking at least 2,300 children, including toddlers and infants, into separate government custody. As anger began to build, the president repeatedly and falsely claimed he had no power to stop the separations, blaming the brutal actions on his predecessors in the White House and Democrats in Congress.

But public opposition grew from a simmer to a boil, and the heat on Trump was finally too much to bear. Powerful Republicans and supportive members of the clergy who had tolerated every past outrage finally had to face conduct so terrible they could not accept the immorality or the political risk of silence. Cornered and enraged himself, the president then did what he repeatedly said he had no power to do. He ordered that families be kept in custody together.

Even as Trump caved, Orwell ascended. At a news conference announcing the change, a roundtable of sycophants took turns heaping praise on the president. A few hours later, Trump signed his vague executive order, and then had Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pay tribute to him for flip-flopping on a policy both had been forced to publicly state the president had no power to reverse.

The administration, which still has its zero-tolerance policy in place, now must reunite all these families, care for them, and adjudicate their cases quickly and fairly. The administration has no plan in place on how to reunite the children with their families. Many are thousands of miles apart from each other, with no ability to communicate. It’s our responsibility to help them overcome their trauma.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions must be stopped from narrowing the definition of asylum; it cannot exclude people fleeing gang violence or other dangerous circumstances. And Congress must craft legislation that provides a path to citizenship for “Dreamers” brought here illegally by their parents as children, funds more border security, fills our labor needs and maintains the United States as a nation that accepts immigrants, lifts them up and is enriched by their presence.

Since he was elected, Trump has treated the governance of this nation like reality television. Separating families provided his first crushing defeat in the ratings, so he changed the script. Now Trump needs to fire the director of that disaster, adviser Stephen Miller.

And Trump needs to learn a lesson.

In the United States of America, we do not treat humans as vermin, speak of them as infestations or abuse children to advance a political agenda.