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U.S. State Dept. Condemns ‘Soviet Practice’ of Separating Families as Trump Admin Defends Border Policy


On a day that began with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen saying “we will not apologize” and “don’t believe the press” on reporting about the separation of children from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, the day is wrapping up with a follow-up joint briefing featuring Nielsen and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for damage control.

As the outcry over the response from the Trump Administration defending the policy has reached full throat, a completely unrelated background briefing at the U.S. State Department from Monday is circulating. It specifically called stripping “dissidents” and “members of religious minorities of their parental rights” as part of a “revival of cruel, Soviet-era practices” overseas.

Dave Clark of Agence France-Presse pointed out the interesting timing and content of this briefing.

Here’s what the relevant portion said.

“Particularly, today I’d like to call attention to the facts that the number of these cases involving Russia is growing rapidly. We’ve seen a threefold increase since 2014, and the list of those unjustly imprisoned exceeds now over 150 people,” it reads. “In addition, we also have seen a revival of cruel, Soviet-era practices, including abusive psychiatric confinement, closed trials, transferring of prisoners to remote and harsh prison conditions far from their families.”

It goes on to name a particularly “difficult and challenging” rising threat of an “old Soviet practice” to strip parents of rights.

“We have to do our job; we will not apologize doing for our job … This administration has a simple message: If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you,” Nielsen said earlier Monday.

At least 2,700 children have reportedly been separated from the parents at the border between Oct, 2017 and May 2018. That Border Patrol is reportedly “very uncomfortable” with the use of the word “cages” for where minors are being kept (while also saying “it’s not inaccurate”)  added fuel to outrage. 

Sec. Nielsen tweeted Sunday that the Trump Administration “do[es] not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”

President Trump reacted to the outcry over Monday by saying he doesn’t want “what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us,” that children are being used by criminals to enter the country and that this is the fault of Democrats who are “weak and ineffective with Boarder (sic) Security and Crime.” He also tweeted in all caps, “CHANGE THE LAWS!”

[Image via Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.