Where are the kids?

Keep asking the question until Trump’s government provides answers.

Then ask how and why this could happen in America.

Then vote in November to make sure it never happens again.

Meanwhile, the story worsens by the week. Chutzpah doesn’t quite capture the latest Trump move.

— The federal court’s July 26, 2018 deadline for reuniting children that the government separated from their parents at the border came and went.

— As of Aug. 3, 572 kids still remained in government custody, separated from their families.

—  The government admitted that the parents of 410 of those children reside “outside the United States,” meaning that they had likely been deported.

— The Trump administration proposed a Trumpian solution: Shift responsibility to others. Government lawyers asked the court to require that the ACLU “take the lead” in finding the “missing parents.”

Appropriately, the judge scoffed at the absurdity of that suggestion: “Many of these parents were removed from the country without their child. All of this is the result of the government’s separation and then inability and failure to track and reunite. And the reality is that for every parent who is not located there will be a permanently orphaned child. And that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration.”

100 percent.

Bad News for the Non-Orphans, Too

Even for those kids who make their way back to their families, the damage from Trump’s family separation policy will be permanent, as a recent article in The Atlantic explains:

“This kind of trauma can permanently affect the brains of these children, and potentially their long-term development, explained Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics….

“In April, Kraft and some colleagues were permitted to visit a shelter for migrant children run by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. She described seeing a room full of toddlers that was ‘eerily silent.’ That is, except for one little girl, who was ‘sobbing and wailing and beating her fists on the mat.’ A staff worker tried to comfort her with books and toys, but she wasn’t allowed to pick her up or touch her, Kraft said.

“‘This girl would stop crying if her mother was there, but we couldn’t bring her mother to her,’” Kraft said. ‘We could feel the trauma that was going on there.’

“This trauma, she explained, can permanently affect these children’s brains, especially if it occurs early in childhood. Separation from a parent induces stress hormones, which course quickly through kids’ small bodies. Parents can normally help children work through their stress—but not if they aren’t there.

“Studies show that high levels of cortisol, one of these stress hormones, can suppress the immune system and change the architecture of a developing brain, according to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Another stress chemical, corticotropin-releasing hormone, can damage the hippocampus, which plays a major role in learning and memory.

“The brain develops rapidly before the age of 3, with some connections strengthening and some being pruned away. In healthy, normal kids, synaptic connections related to learning, playing, and social skills are being formed during the toddler years. But, as Kraft explained, in children who have unrelenting stress, the strongest connections in the brain are those related to fear, aggression, and anxiety.

“As the kids grow, the brain starts pruning some of the weaker synaptic connections while keeping the stronger ones. Healthy kids’ brains will keep the connections related to learning or resilience, while perhaps wiping away the small hiccups of childhood. But in kids who have suffered toxic stress, the enduring connections will be the ones related to fear and anxiety, Kraft explained, while those related to learning or relating socially might fade.

“Many kids like this, she said, ‘don’t develop speech, they don’t develop the social and emotional bonds, don’t develop gross motor function [normally]. It leads to very significant developmental delay.’”

Never Forget

Behind the numbers are individual tragedies that create a stark picture of what “making America great again” means to Trump and his enablers. Starting in November, voters will have an opportunity to say whether America has endured enough of Trump-branded greatness. His name isn’t on any ballot, but his dark shadow hovers over every Republican congressional candidate.

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