How the Trump Administration Got Comfortable Separating Immigrant Kids from Their Parents
Photograph by John Moore / Getty
Two months into Donald Trump’s Presidency, John Kelly, then the Secretary of Homeland Security, publicly confirmed that his department was considering separating immigrant parents from their children at the border, as a way of discouraging families from crossing illegally. It was a radical idea, one that past Administrations had considered and then dismissed as too extreme and too complicated. After coming under intense criticism from the press, human-rights advocates, and members of Congress, Kelly backed off from it. But the idea persisted.
A few months later, in August, 2017, a group of officials at the Department of Homeland Security gathered to brainstorm new ways to toughen immigration enforcement. Among those leading the discussion was an official named Gene Hamilton, a former aide to Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, and a close ally of Stephen Miller, the President’s chief immigration adviser.
“Hamilton told us that over the next few days we’d need to generate paperwork laying out everything we could do to deter immigrants from coming to the U.S. illegally.”