The Migrant Child & Trump 'TIME' Cover Is Brutally Honest About Family Separation
President Trump is back on the cover of TIME for what might be the magazine's most stirring visual critique of him yet. The new TIME cover depicts Trump's immigrant family separation policy with brutal honesty. The president towers over a tiny crying girl who's probably about to be separated from her mother — and he looks into her face with no emotion.
The photograph of the sobbing girl has been circulating the internet along with other pictures of the crisis. She's a 2-year-old from Honduras, and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer John Moore captured her reaction to her mother being detained at the border last Tuesday in McAllen, Texas. After the picture was taken, the mother and daughter were taken to a processing center where they were, in all likelihood, separated and held in different facilities.
"This one was tough for me. As soon as it was over, they were put into a van. I had to stop and take deep breaths," he told TIME. "All I wanted to do was pick her up. But I couldn’t."
In April, the Trump administration announced a "zero-tolerance" policy of prosecuting all immigrant families crossing the border without paperwork. As part of the policy, Border Patrol officers have been separating children from their parents and holding them in separate detention centers. Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that ends family separation but continues the zero-tolerance approach. This will instead keep newly arrived families together but hold them in detention indefinitely. It's not clear when the separated families will be reunited.
Although the "zero-tolerance" policy means that all adults are supposed to be prosecuted, The Washington Post reports that it's not clear whether that's actually happening in every single case. We don't know for sure what happened to the little Honduran girl after she and her mother were taken to the processing center — though it's likely that they were, indeed, separated.
The rest of Moore's photos from that night depict what happened before they were driven away to the center. His images show the pair — along with other migrants from Honduras, mostly women and children — rafting across the Rio Grande to get to Texas from Mexico. This particular mother told Moore that she and her daughter had undergone a month-long journey to reach the United States.
His photos show her breastfeeding the girl, holding her in her arms as they're detained, and taking out her shoelaces (these are confiscated because they are considered a personal item by the Border Patrol). The viral picture was taken while she was forced to set her daughter down to be searched; it shows the girl's reaction to being separated from her mother for a even couple of minutes.
"The mother stoically had her hands against the vehicle, and the girl was crying," Moore told The Washington Post. "Neither were saying words. Nothing could be said with her. She needed to be with her mother."
Captions for Moore's photos on NBC suggest that the group of migrants was seeking asylum. Honduras suffers from terrible gang violence and one of the worst murder rates on earth. Femicide is a particular risk: Last year, ABC called Honduras "one of the most dangerous places on Earth to be a woman."
Trump has long been compelled by the idea of getting featured on TIME's cover. He was the magazine's person of the year in 2016 (which he was very happy about) and a runner-up in 2017 (which he was less thrilled about). He's appeared on over 15 of TIME's covers in all, many of which have been unflattering critiques of his presidency. This one is perhaps the most severe condemnation of all.
Meanwhile, the small Honduran girl and her mother may be locked up somewhere, far apart from each other. "I don't know what the truth is," Moore told The Washington Post. "I fear they were split up."