When people demand the reunification of immigrant families today, they usually mean the thousands of asylum seekers separated from family members in the last four years. “The specter of [the Trump administration’s] family separation at the borders was so haunting that the term has been kind of narrowed,” said Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “But just because these things happened in the past, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a really awful present effect.”
If Mr. Biden is serious about “securing our values as a nation of immigrants,” he can’t just reverse President Donald Trump’s decisions, or label deportations under President Barack Obama a “big mistake.”He must repair the harm that was done when he was vice president, which left communities fractured and financially devastated, as the public health researcher William D. Lopez observed in his book, “Separated.” He should extend some of the same relief sought for victims of Mr. Trump’s policy of family separation — such as mental health services and reunification — to those torn apart by Mr. Obama’s policies.
It’s true that the motivation and goals of the Obama administration’s policy differed from the Trump administration’s. Mr. Trump’s policies were designed to traumatize children and parents. They were rooted in his extremist adviser Stephen Miller’s animus for family migration.