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Surely we can do better than this

The Rev. Franklin Graham called it disgraceful. Laura Bush called it cruel and immoral.

They were describing the forced separations of families along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Trump administration should take note. When you’ve offended a solid ally like Graham, or a  Republican first lady, maybe you have gone too far.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new “zero-tolerance” policy that refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution, The Associated Press reported. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.

Session has said that parents shouldn’t cross illegally into the U.S. if they don’t want to be separated from their children.

While the U.S. certainly needs immigration reform, splitting up families is not the way to accomplish it.

“What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins said. “That’s traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims, and it is contrary to our values in this country.”

She’s right. The photos and descriptions of children waiting in chain-link cages are heartbreaking. 

Some of these children entered the country as unaccompanied minors, so not all you see in the photos that dominate the media’s attention right now have been taken from their parents. But some have. Wouldn’t it be more humane to leave those children with their parents while they go through the legal process? Is there not a way to detain them together as a family?

According to AP, staff at these facilities are not allowed to pick up, hold or comfort the children. They are being fed and provided with medication, but that is not enough. Imagine the terror of being separated from your parents and being locked in a chain-link enclosure with strangers.

“The stress is overwhelming,” Dr. Colleen Kraft, the head of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said after visiting a shelter. “The focus needs to be on the welfare of these children, absent of politics.”

Surely we can do better than this. The problem is complex and there will be no easy answers, but enforcing a policy that splits up families is not the best solution.