“I love kids. I have kids and grandkids,” Donald Trump said shortly after his inauguration, discussing his struggle dealing with undocumented minors and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But while the president has called children “beautiful” several times, he is likely also aware that they don’t vote, and they’re not very deep-pocketed political donors.
Which must be why his administration has been chipping away at their rights and benefits: From children’s health insurance to student debt to preserving the environment, the US president has shown little regard for future generations of Americans.
Here’s a look at the administration’s track record so far:
Update (Jun. 18): Update, Jun. 18: The administration is now separating families who are arrested while crossing the border at unofficial checkpoints. In the past two weeks, the administration has taken 2,000 children from their parents, in a policy that White House chief of staff John Kelly described as a deliberate deterrence tactic. After detention, some parents have reportedly been repatriated without their kids.
The Trump administration plans to detain as many undocumented immigrants as possible, with the aim of discouraging their arrival. Since international human rights laws prohibit the detention of children, the administration has decided the best course of action is to separate them from their parents—who can then be held in custody while their cases are reviewed.
The administration is moving one step closer into making things difficult for immigrant children, as it plans to confine them to military bases to fulfill the requirement that children be kept in foster care by the government.
The government also has a pretty terrible track record when it comes to caring for immigrant children: Last month, it emerged that the federal authorities had lost track of about 1,500 immigrant children who had been separated from their families, or arrived alone at the border, and placed in the care of foster families.
After the senate reached a last-minute agreement to refinance the federal Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers insurance for nearly 9 million American children, Trump asked to trim the program earlier this month.
In his $15 billion “rescission” of federal spending (the president’s proposal for cuts in federal spending that lawmakers had already approved), Trump suggests cutting $7 billion from the CHIP program. The White House says this money is not being spent by the program, therefore the cut is not going to have practical consequences, but it’s hard to make sure that’s the case: Though indeed that money was left from last year, it could be required to face emergencies in the future.
“To me, [ending DACA is] one of the most difficult subjects I have, because you have these incredible kids, in many cases—not in all cases,” said Trump in February 2017. A few months later, in September, he ended DACA, the provision of deferring deportation for children of undocumented immigrants who were minors at the time of arrival in the US. This put hundreds of thousands of kids at risk of deportation. He deferred to congress to reach an agreement to fix the program, but so far that agreement hasn’t been reached.
While a federal judge has ordered that the administration keep accepting DACA applications past the date Trump had vowed to end it (Mar. 5), there is no guarantee what will happen once Congress comes up with a permanent solution.
During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to address the problem of the enormous debt (now over $1.4 trillion) weighing on US students. But the few changes made on student debt in the US have gone in the direction of making things worse, rather than better, for students.
Since the administration has been in office, it has only undertaken one action to help with student loans, by adding a one-time $350 million boost to its budget to help debt forgiveness on certain public servants, such as teachers, after 10 years of on-time payments.
At the same time, several actions have rolled back protections for students:
- In April 2017, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos repealed an Obama-era provision that penalized lenders who had given misleading information about their loans, including cutting them out of government contracts.
- Two other Obama-era programs have also been halted: One, which requires debt forgiveness for students who were given misleading information by for-profit institutions; and a second, which forgave the loan in case students of for-profit colleges couldn’t find a work that paid them enough to repay it.
- Trump’s budget also included a $5.2 billion cut from education grants to low-income students.
- The administration has proposed the elimination of public service loan forgiveness, which allows certain government and nonprofit workers to have their loans forgiven after 10 years of regular payments.
- The Education Department has also essentially dismantled the department that was focusing on investigating abuses by for-profit colleges (paywall). Many of high-profile hires of DeVos had been previously working at such institutions.
Trump isn’t a fan of welfare and government benefits programs. His budget proposed severe cuts from food stamps (27.4% cut by 2028), housing assistance (20.1% cut by 2028), and other forms of financial support for low-income families. Drastic cuts will also be made to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program that provides nutritious food to impoverished pregnant women, infants, and toddlers.
According to the US census, children are the relative majority of the recipient of means-tested benefits (pdf, p.6). They count on benefit programs for the equivalent of an average $443 a month.
Yet, shortly after, he put this idea aside, instead adopting the NRA talking points that gun violence in school is a matter of mental health and violent video games, and proposing to have teachers carry concealed weapons to protect their classes.
When the student-led #neveragain movement took over the capital and other cities with the March for Our Lives, the president was silent, while the White House expressed its support to the protest only as a manifestation of free speech.