It is difficult to estimate the number of migrant and refugee children whom the Trump administration has directed be separated from their parents at the southern border of the United States with Mexico. As of June 19th, 2018, National Public Radio estimated that U.S. government agencies had separated 2,342 migrant and refugee children from their parents. More recently, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar estimated “under 3,000.” It is also difficult to estimate the ratio of racial and ethnic backgrounds of these migrants and refugee children and their parents, but one can speculate that many come from Latin American countries. Family separation is part of what the Trump administration has called its “zero tolerance” policy on immigration. For the first week after the practice of separating families at the border became public, the administration alternately argued that there was no policy calling for such a practice, that the policy was a legacy of the Obama administration, and that Democrats were the only ones who could change the practice by changing existing immigration law. On June 21st, 2018, President Trump signed an executive order that promised to end the practice of family separation of migrants and refugees along our southern border. One week later, it was unclear whether or not accurate records of who and where these children are exists, despite a recent order for reunification from San Diego federal judge Dana Sabraw. Further, reports from sources in the Pentagon say that the Trump administration is calling for space to be made for family detention of 20,000 more migrant and refugee parents and children on military bases around the United States.
Some have argued that the only way the separation of children from their families can be tolerable, the only way the mass detention of migrants and refugees can be possible, is for the population in question to be dehumanized. Everyday Americans would not allow their government to call for children to be forcibly taken from their parents if they saw those children and their parents as human, their argument runs. In recent months, Trump has warned that immigrants will “infest” this country, comparing migrants and refugees to “snakes” and “animals” and decrying the “shithole countries” from which migrants come to the United States. He has criminalized migrants and Latinxs more broadly, making misleading claims about gangs like MS-13 and the wider Latinx community.
As he has spoken favorably of immigrants from Scandinavian countries like Norway, I do not believe his concern is actually related to xenophobia, in spite of his inflammatory rhetoric. His fear has to do with economically poor people of color, especially poor Latinx folks. Because of his racism and his disdain for the working class, Trump is unable to see them as fully human. And because he cannot see them as fully human, he creates policy that erodes their basic human dignity. How we think about members of marginalized groups affects how we interact with them.
These events bring to mind the Latina Catholic women in the Los Angeles area among whom I have done my dissertation research. It urges me to consider what the women whom I have interviewed might teach members of the Trump administration about conflict resolution, about justice, about what it means to live in community. Many of them mothers and grandmothers, these women know that there is another way to confront gang and police violence afflicting our neighborhoods. They know that each member of their parish and of their neighborhood is a child of God, worthy of consideration and care.
In the face of the lies and the half-truths of this administration, these women say what is true. The truth they speak is not an abstract concept, but rather, as it is for all Catholic Christians, truth is a person. Truth touched the earth as a refugee little boy whose parents were forced to protect him from an empire that sought to kill him before his second birthday, as a prophetically faithful Jewish man whose witness was so indicting of those in religious and political power that he was murdered at the hands of the state. These women know truth because they know his mother, especially as she grieves the loss of her son. These women see Mary of Nazareth and Our Lady of Guadalupe as one and the same, and they know her intimately. She walks with them in their own suffering and they, in turn, walk with those who suffer. In doing so, they humanize those whom some among us would have us believe are less than human. They speak to the truth of our basic goodness, calling to conversionthose who do not acknowledge that goodness.
 Camila Domonoske and Richard Gonzales, “What We Know: Family Separation And 'Zero Tolerance' At The Border,” National Public Radio, June 19, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621065383/what-we-know-family-separation-and-zero-tolerance-at-the-border.
 Philip Bump, “The Children Separated from Their Parents, by the Numbers,” The Washington Post, July 9, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/07/09/the-children-separated-from-their-parents-by-the-numbers/?utm_term=.65ebc9a748dd.
 Maya Rhodan, “Here Are the Facts About President Trump’s Family Separation Policy,” Time, June 20, 2018, http://time.com/5314769/family-separation-policy-donald-trump/.
 Salvador Rizzo, “The Facts About Trump’s Policy of Separating Families at the Border,” The Washington Post, June 19, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/06/19/the-facts-about-trumps-policy-of-separating-families-at-the-border/?utm_term=.00208b4a635e.
 Kevin Johnson, David Jackson, Jessica Estepa, “Trump signs executive order on immigration, but says ‘zero tolerance’ will continue,” USA Today, June 20, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/06/20/homeland-security-drafts-plan-end-separations-border/717898002/.
 Jonathan Blitzer, “The government has no plan for reuniting the immigrant families it is tearing apart,” The New Yorker, June 18, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-government-has-no-plan-for-reuniting-the-immigrant-families-it-is-tearing-apart; Kristina Davis and Alene Tchekmedyian, “San Diego federal judge orders separated children reunited with parents within 30 days,” San Diego Union Tribune, June 26, 2018, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/courts/sd-me-judge-ruling-20180626-story.html.
 Michael D. Shear, Helene Cooper, and Katie Benner, “US Prepares to House Up to 20,000 Migrants on Military Bases,” The New York Times, June 21, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/21/us/politics/trump-immigration-border-family-separation.html.
 DeNeen L. Brown, “‘Barbaric’: America’s cruel history of separating children from their parents,” The Washington Post, May 31, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/05/31/barbaric-americas-cruel-history-of-separating-children-from-their-parents/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a8ffa93def70; Anthea Butler, “Separating families and calling it Christian is an American tradition,” The Huffington Post, June 16, 2018, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-butler-sessions-sanders-immigration-christianity_us_5b2513b7e4b0783ae1298e5d; Charles M. Blow, “White Extinction Anxiety,” The New York Times, June 24, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/24/opinion/america-white-extinction.html.
 Betsy Klein and Kevin Liptak, “Trump ramps up rhetoric: Dems want ‘illegal immigrants’ to ‘infest our country,’” CNN, June 19, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/19/politics/trump-illegal-immigrants-infest/index.html; David A. Graham, “Trump Says Democrats Want Immigrants to ‘Infest” the US,” The Atlantic, June 19, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/06/trump-immigrants-infest/563159/; Dan Merica, “Trump reads ‘The Snake,’ repurposed as anti-immigrant poem, at CPAC,” CNN, February 25, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/23/politics/trump-the-snake-song/index.html; Maya Oppenheim, “Daughters of man who wrote ‘The Snake’ tell Trump to stop using poem to smear immigrants,” The Independent, February 27, 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/trump-the-snake-lyrics-immigration-policy-daughters-anger-us-president-a8230771.html; Julie Hirschfield Davis, “Trump Calls Some Unauthorized Immigrants ‘Animals’ in Rant,” The New York Times, May 16, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/us/politics/trump-undocumented-immigrants-animals.html; Jessica Taylor, “Trump Tests Midterm Message on Immigration, MS-13 ‘Animals,’ during Tennessee Rally,” National Public Radio, May 29, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/05/29/615355282/trump-tests-midterm-message-on-immigration-ms-13-animals-during-tenn-rally; Josh Dawsey, “Trump derides protections for immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries,” The Washington Post, January 12, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-attacks-protections-for-immigrants-from-shithole-countries-in-oval-office-meeting/2018/01/11/bfc0725c-f711-11e7-91af-31ac729add94_story.html?utm_term=.d88d1acde985.
 Jen Kirby, “Trump wants fewer immigrants from “shithole countries” and more from places like Norway,” Vox, January 11, 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/1/11/16880750/trump-immigrants-shithole-countries-norway.