With one memorable exception, virtually all major policies imposed by the Trump administration have caused division among party lines. That exception, of course, was the immigration strategy enforced in early May that separated children from their parents after they crossed the Southern U.S. border. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned at the time, “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. … If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
As a result, nearly 3,000 children, including scores under the age of five, were removed from their parents and placed first in Customs and Border Protection facilities, then in shelters provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The policy caused a huge outcry from citizens worldwide, regardless of their political persuasion. So immediate and vociferous were the objections that President Trump reversed his separation policy on June 20th, while on June 27th, a federal judge ruled that the children must be reunited with their families within 30 days; or 14 days for children under five. Today, thousands of children have yet to be reunited with their parents, and the administration has already missed the 14-day deadline.
The idea of separating children from their parents who are seeking refuge in the USA has been so abhorrent, so counter to what is universally considered to be fair and compassionate, that protests against Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions are underway across the country, including in Portland, where demonstrations have continued outside ICE offices. Government agencies have tightly controlled any photos and videos of the separated children, but those released to the public are stunning and dismaying.
For attorney Theresa Kohlhoff, a member of the Lake Oswego Council since 2017, those images are particularly upsetting – and personal. At a July 3 council meeting, she broke from the established agenda in order to publicly make clear just how deeply the impacts of the separation policy had affected her, speaking as an attorney who has handled many cases involving difficult and heart-rending termination of parental rights. Then she spoke as a grandmother and candidly recalled a moving interaction with her granddaughter that theimages of the separated children evoked.
Her memorable comments are recorded in the video below.
Theresa Kohlhoff is an active Clackamas County Democratic Precinct Committee Person and Neighborhood Leader