Separated Inside an American tragedy

Jacob Soboroff

Book - 2020

"A deeply reported, newsbreaking account the humanitarian crisis of our time by the journalist who has been at the center of the story: MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff, winner of the 2019 Walter Cronkite Award, offers a chilling expose of the human cost of the Trump administration's border and immigration policies"--

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2nd Floor 325.73/Soboroff Checked In
2nd Floor 325.73/Soboroff Checked In
New York, NY : Custom House [2020]
First edition
Physical Description
xxii, 388 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [373]-388).
Main Author
Jacob Soboroff (author)
  • Prologue: They were going to kill us
  • I just couldn't do that
  • I don't have those numbers
  • A significant increase
  • Very, very worried
  • Get rid of the list
  • These kids are incarcerated
  • They're cages
  • No way to link
  • Shocks the conscience
  • Made-for-TV drama
  • It hurts in my heart
  • We know that he is a good person
  • The greatest human-rights catastrophe of my lifetime.
Review by Booklist Review

In this gripping report, NBC correspondent Soboroff, who received the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Broadcast Journalism for his initial coverage of this issue, reconstructs and contextualizes the trajectory of the Trump administration's immigrant family separation policy. Chronologically tracking this misguided practice in play-by-play fashion, Soboroff doggedly follows the story from the halls of power in Washington, DC, to an eerie showcase of border-wall prototypes near San Diego, to the heat and desolation of the Texas-Mexico border. The father of a young son, he disarmingly expresses his amazement at the lack of empathy shown by top officials in their zeal to deter immigrants and asylum-seekers. Ultimately, Soboroff focuses on the terrifying journey of a father and son fleeing violence in Guatemala, only to be separated and detained in freezing facilities akin to dog kennels. Each section begins with bureaucratic documents stating the grotesque and inane expectation that small children can wade through the complicated immigration process on their own. Supported by a time line and copious source notes, Soboroff's thoroughly engaging exposé of the inner workings of a corrupt and unfeeling government is essential to understanding America's current immigration misery.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

MSNBC correspondent Soboroff examines the origins and ramifications of the Trump administration's "deliberate and systemic separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents" in his harrowing and deeply informed debut. One of several journalists who brought attention to the family separation controversy after touring a Texas holding facility in 2018, Soboroff sketches the history of "deterrence-based immigration policy" under presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama, and details how Trump's ire over an increase in migrant detentions led attorney general Jeff Sessions to mandate criminal charges for anyone caught illegally crossing the border. Drawing on interviews with border security agents and White House staffers, Soboroff describes key moments in the decision-making process behind family separation, and punctuates his analysis with excerpts from asylum requests. The story of 12-year-old José and his father, Juan, who fled Guatemala for the U.S. only to be detained for months in separate facilities, is interwoven throughout. Though Trump was forced to back down from his "zero-tolerance" approach to border enforcement, and the issue has since fallen out of the headlines, Soboroff contends that the administration is still causing "immeasurable pain and unexpected suffering" to migrants. He presents a wealth of insider details, balancing his own sense of outrage with dogged reporting and vivid sketches of impacted families. The result is an impassioned, essential account of "one of the most shameful chapters in modern American history." (July)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Award-winning journalist Soboroff, correspondent and anchor for NBC News and MSNBC, reports on the Trump administration's policy of separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Soboroff argues that this policy is the latest iteration of decades of harsh U.S. immigration policy, and explores its beginnings in the Obama administration. However, the bulk of the book is devoted to the Trump administration's implementation, and the author examines documents and includes firsthand interviews in order to help bring the decision-making to light. Additionally, Soboroff describes his experiences reporting on the border, especially the border wall. His reporting inches close to those affected by family separation and he expresses regret at not finding the story earlier. Meanwhile, migrant Juan and his son Jose flee Guatemala only to be separated as they cross the border, which adds a personal dimension. As Soboroff's reporting brings new attention to immigration policy, the backlash grows and the Trump administration rethinks its approach. Documents highlighting the policy's effects are interspersed between chapters. Soboroff closes by reflecting on current immigration practices and implications. VERDICT Readers interested in learning more about immigration policy will be drawn to this captivating account, which deftly weaves together the political and the personal.--Rebekah Kati, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Soboroff takes a piercing look at a controversial immigration policy. Separating migrant minors from their families has been a hallmark of the current administration--and, writes the author, "an unparalleled abuse of the human rights of children." His narrative begins in June 2018 in Brownsville, Texas, where he toured a former Walmart that had been converted into a "shelter" to house some 1,500 migrant boys, many of them caught with their families trying to enter the U.S. By virtue of the administration's vaunted "zero tolerance" policy, these children represent what Soboroff calls "an avoidable catastrophe." His sketches of the detention centers are consistently affecting and haunting. As he noted at the time, "this place is called a shelter, but effectively these kids are incarcerated." The policy of separation was foreshadowed in Trump's blustery rhetoric during the 2016 campaign--but more by his lieutenant Stephen Miller, who loudly voiced "vitriol for undocumented immigrants." It was up to Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen to enact it, even after she was warned that family separations would constitute a violation of the constitutional principle of fair treatment. Miller's faction won the day, and family separation became policy. Startlingly, when a federal judge ruled against the policy and ordered the government to reunite detained families, Customs and Border Patrol admitted that it had planned to separate "more than 26,000 children between May and September 2018" alone. Naturally, the administration has denied the policy even as, Soboroff notes, the principals involved who remain in the administration are now the very people who are coordinating the government's bungled response to COVID-19. And even though the policy has theoretically been terminated by executive order, thousands of migrant children are still detained in tent cities and other facilities across the border, in some cases without their families for years. A book of justifiably righteous indignation at--and condemnation of--a monstrous program. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.