"Belive me, I love babies." - then-candidate Donald Trump, at a campaign rally in 2016.
I can almost hear Donald Trump’s voice in my head saying a line that easily could have followed the one above: “No one loves babies more than I do.” But if Candidate Trump really loved babies, something drastic must have happened between the time he declared this love in 2016 and now, when President Trump’s policies have turned out to be very anti-baby.
First, we learned about the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance policy,” which has led to close to 3,000 children, including babies and toddlers, being separated from their parents at the Mexico border in the last few months. We learned about “tender age” shelters that were set up to house the younger children, which visitors described as “playrooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis.” We heard about a baby who was ripped from her mother, even as she was breastfeeding. These are not the actions of someone who loves babies.
Then came the stories of infants appearing in immigration court. In one instance, a 1-year-old boy’s appearance in court made even the judge uneasy when asking if the defendant understood the proceedings: “I’m embarrassed to ask it, because I don’t know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law,” Judge John W. Richardson told the lawyer representing the child. In another story of deportation proceedings, “a boy from Guatemala… was asked by the judge how old he was, and the child simply put five fingers up.”
According to that same Associated Press story, “[T]he nation’s immigration court system requires children — some still in diapers — to have appearances before judges and go through deportation proceedings while separated from their parents. Such children don’t have a right to a court-appointed attorney, and 90% of kids without a lawyer are returned to their home countries, according to Kids in Need of Defense, a group that provides legal representation.” These are not the policies of someone who loves babies.
Then, we learned this weekend that the Trump Administration strongly and shockingly opposed a pro-breastfeeding resolution at the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly in May. As the New York Times reported on July 8, the U.S. delegation opposed language in the resolution that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and language calling for policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can harm children. But the U.S. didn’t just oppose the resolution, it threatened Ecuador and other countries that considered introducing the resolution with harsh trade sanctions and the withdrawal of military aid. Some reports indicated that companies who make baby formula “were behind the scenes pushing this.” This is not an action of an administration that loves babies.
The Trump Administration has also tried to get the OK to detain migrant children indefinitely with their parents in tent camps – again, not a very pro-baby thing to do. Thankfully, on July 9, a federal judge denied the request to amend a 20-year-old decree that says that migrant children and their families must not be held in detention for longer than 20 days.
Yesterday, July 11, marked the deadline set by a federal court for the Trump Administration to reunite children under the age of 5 separated at the border with their parents. Only about half of the approximately 100 children under 5 were reunited by the deadline. In about a dozen or more of the remaining cases, the children under 5 haven’t yet been reunited because their parents have already been deported without them. Roughly another dozen reunified families were set to be deported yesterday as well. Overall, only about 1 percent of all children who have been taken from their parents have been reunited with them. The Administration has until July 26 to reunite all separated children with their parents, though it’s unclear if this deadline will be met.
While Candidate Trump may have claimed to love babies, the harm President Trump’s actions and policies are doing to them is undeniable.