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If you’ve been subjected to any kind of American news over the past month, you’ve probably heard about a terrible and inhumane new policy being enforced by the Trump administration that separates children from their parents when they arrive at the U.S. border seeking asylum. There are A LOT of headlines out there and A LOT of misinformation so let’s take a minute and set all that straight so we can all truly understand the horror of this thing, shall we?

What’s going on here?

On May 7, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would be taking a “zero tolerance” stance on anyone caught crossing the US border. That meant that all persons caught by Border Patrol would be deferred to the Department of Justice and indicted for the misdemeanor of illegal entry into the United States.

It is important to note that before the enforcement of this “zero tolerance” policy, people were not prosecuted for arriving at the American border seeking asylum. Before that act was turned into a misdemeanor under this policy, it was perfectly legal to come to the U.S. border and apply for asylum. This policy changes that and also limits the arguments one can use to claim asylum in the United States — removing domestic violence and gang violence from the categories under which one can claim refuge in the country.

One pretty significant consequence of that new policy is that adults arriving at the border with their children would be arrested, but children — being minors — can’t be arrested and are therefore separated from their parents, classified as “unaccompanied minors” and sent to shelters. The term “unaccompanied minor” and these shelters were previously reserved for children under 18 arriving at the border alone.

For a more detailed look at how the policy came to be, PBS News Hour has put together a comprehensive timeline.

What’s really going on here?

If that’s not terrible enough, the details are even more awful, inhumane and downright disgusting. So many children have been separated from their parents in the past several weeks that the conditions under which they are being housed are quickly deteriorating.

Over the weekend, a selection of reporters and lawmakers were permitted to tour the facilities, some of which are located in re-purposed box stores like Walmarts or have expanded into actual tent cities. Those who observed the conditions described children crying, changing each others’ diapers and being kept in “cages” (though Border Patrol would prefer you not use that term), calling the whole situation inhumane, cruel and torturous.

The stories are horrifying

Reports from inside these child detention centers are enraging, but even worse is how they got there. A lot of these children arrived with their parents and were physically taken from them as they were arrested. While that is horrifying under any circumstances, particularly cruel stories have been making the rounds as reporters interview these parents who had their children taken away.

One woman reports agents took her infant daughter from her arms while she was in the middle of breastfeeding her. Other parents have told stories of agents claiming they are going to bathe their children and then informing them they won’t be seeing them again. Over the weekend, a photo of a crying toddler watching her mother being taken into custody went viral. The photographer shared with CNN the “painful” experience of capturing that photo and so many others like it.

A number of experts are speaking out about the permanent psychological and emotional damage the violent separation of children from their parents can do to these young people. Vox has also published a report on the body count of this new policy and the increased deportations under the Trump administration. They shine a light on the fact these policies are proving to be deadly, citing cases of suicide and the murders of people who were deported back to their home countries after being denied asylum in the United States.

The Justification

While the Trump administration maintains this family separation policy is not their fault (spoiler: it totally is), they are coming up with any number of ways to justify it. Both A.G. Jeff Sessions and Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly have said publicly that the threat of separation from one’s children is going to act as a deterrent for parents who might seek to claim asylum at the border. There’s just one problem with that: it’s not true.

As many political observers have pointed out in the past few weeks, these migrants are coming from absolutely horrendous conditions and most commonly fleeing threats to their lives — either extreme poverty, gang violence or extreme domestic violence. The hope of saving themselves and their children from those egregious conditions is often much more powerful than the fear that they will be separated from them. If anything, the cruel welcoming at the American border is just another totally unnecessary tragedy forced on these people.

Another justification that has come out of the mouth of Jeff Sessions (and was then echoed by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders) is that the Bible says to listen to the government. He cited a passage from Romans 13 that slave owners often used during the Civil War to justify slavery.

After that, a wide selection of faith leaders came out to set the Biblical record straight. They cited other passages such as “love thy neighbour” and called the practice of tearing families apart “evil.”

It all becomes clear

If the reason for imposing this policy seems completely unfathomable, Trump’s real motivations have become abundantly clear: these children are a bargaining chip to get his immigration reform passed. The Trump administration has failed on several occasions to pass various immigration and border security reform bills (yes, that include funding for his border wall) and this latest horror might just be deplorable enough to get him what he wants.

Like he used the DACA situation last year to try to guilt Democrats into compromising on other aspects of immigration and falsely claimed that things his government were doing were their fault, Trump is using the family separation outrage to push a false narrative that this practice is because of Dems’ lack of cooperation with Republicans. In a series of tweets over the weekend, the president claimed that the Democrats’ resistance to his immigration plans is the reason families are being separated and even went so far as to say “the Democrats are forcing the breakup of families” which is just demonstrably false.

The Resistance

Naturally, there is huge vocal outrage over the separation of children from their parents on the U.S. border. Democrats, celebrities, journalists, world leaders, activists and regular citizens have spoken out against the horrifying move. What’s shocking is that many Republicans have broken with their leader and also spoken out against the policy. Notable names like Laura Bush, Jeb Bush and Anthony Scaramucci all made public statements against it. Even Melania Trump broke with the party line to say she “hates to see children separated from their families” and “believes [the U.S.] need[s] to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

Monday, Trump announced that he would be sitting down with lawmakers Tuesday to discuss a “compromise” bill that would allegedly address the family separation issue and also allocate funding for his border wall. Meanwhile, Democrats are gaining bipartisan support for a bill that would specifically address family separation at the border.