Immigrant children now housed in a tent encampment under the new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration are shown walking in single file at the...
MIKE BLAKE

Despite the scandal, Trump hasn’t given up on family separation policy

It may be tempting to think the Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which led to the separation of many migrant families, is a tragedy from our recent past. The president and his team implemented a cruel approach; there was a public backlash; the White House scaled back its policy, and a federal court ordered an end to the brutal fiasco.

But as regular readers know, the tragedy is ongoing. Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general’s office reported that the administration separated more children from their parents than we previously knew, and it struggled to determine whether the families had been reunited.

A month later, the administration said in a court filing that there is no system in place that allows officials to track the children who were separated from their parents. (A central database to track separated families has never existed.)

In a separate court filing late last week, officials said identifying the children taken from their families could take two years.

It’s against this backdrop that NBC News reported this morning that Donald Trump wants his “zero tolerance” campaign reinstated.

President Donald Trump has for months urged his administration to reinstate large-scale separation of migrant families crossing the border, according to three U.S. officials with knowledge of meetings at the White House.

Trump’s outgoing Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, resisted – setting her at odds with the president.

According to two of the sources, Nielsen told Trump that federal court orders prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from reinstating the policy, and that he would be reversing his own executive order from June that ended family separations.

Imagine watching the family-separation crisis unfold and concluding that the United States needs more of it.

Looking ahead, it’s too soon to say with confidence who might replace Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary, and what he or she may think of the president’s plans. But in the short term, the acting DHS chief, Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, has “not ruled out family separation as an option,” according to NBC News’ reporting.