During a Senate hearing this week, Ronald Vitiello, Donald Trump’s nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), refused to rule out whether the administration would officially revive family separation at the southern border. “That option and that discussion is underway,” Vitiello, a former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) chief, told the committee.
The administration could be starting up another humanitarian crisis without having resolved the one it already created. Friday, November 16, marks 113 days since a federal judge ordered Trump officials to return migrant children kidnapped at the southern border back to their families, yet some continue to remain under U.S. custody, according to numbers from the administration. Of 25 kids eligible for reunification, tweeted MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff, the parents of 18 have already been deported.
Vitiello helped implement this barbaric policy on the ground when he led CBP, yet he’s on the record as minimizing family separation as “only 2,500 people were affected by that situation.” That comment was made to an anti-immigrant hate group, no less. Vitiello also refused to tell senators how long kids should be detained (Trump wants to do it indefinitely) or even whether kids are being psychologically harmed by family separation (they are, perhaps for years).
Some kids may never see their parents again, because a court filing also revealed that officials have a separate group of ninety-nine kids who have “deported parents who have chosen not to reunite,” Soboroff continues. Perhaps some parents felt their child deserved a chance here. Perhaps others were coerced into being deported, as reports have indicated.
Vitiello shouldn’t be rewarded with another top federal government post for his role in implementing state-sanctioned kidnapping, and the Senate needs to reject his confirmation. Just as importantly, vulnerable families broken apart at the southern border by the Trump administration must be reunited. Free the children and give them and their families a chance to live here in safety.