The government appears to be on track to meet a court-ordered Thursday deadline for returning children seized at the border to their parents. But it is too soon for anybody to declare “Mission Accomplished.”

Even if a federal judge in San Diego is satisfied that the families who are the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit in his court have been reunited, there are still hundreds of other children who remain in custody.

About 2,500 children were separated from their parents this spring after the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy, which treated families crossing the border as criminals even if they were applying for political asylum. About 1,000 had been reunited by Tuesday, but many others had not. They include the children of 914 parents who either are not eligible to be part of the lawsuit or whose status regarding the suit has not yet been determined.

And at least another 463 parents – there may be more – may have left the country and can’t be located. It has been reported that some may have agreed to be deported after being told that if they did, their children would rejoin them.

For the government, this is a bureaucratic mess and a public relations disaster that resulted from a poorly designed policy. But for these families, this is more than an embarrassing episode. It is a tragedy that could leave lifelong scars on people whose only mistake was coming to America when they were running for their lives.

What makes it even more appalling is that the Trump administration decided to implement these draconian measures because somebody thought that throwing children in cages would send a message to families in Central America that they ought to stay home. The administration also tried to shift blame for the inhumane acts it ordered onto the parents themselves for bringing their children with them.

This policy is just one of many wrongheaded moves made by the Trump administration and its allies in Congress when it comes to immigration policy. Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected from deportation 800,000 or so law-abiding immigrants who were brought to this country as children by parents who did not have legal status. The Justice Department also has pressured local police agencies to act as immigration agents, even though they do not have the resources to do that. And the government has begun targeting for deportation longtime residents who are law-abiding but undocumented, including veterans of the armed forces.

All of this has been done to fulfill rash and emotional promises to “Make America Great Again” by shutting down illegal immigration, no matter the human cost. These policies have not made America greater, but they have caused suffering and damaged our nation’s reputation around the world.

So even if the administration satisfies one judge this week, no one should consider this mission to be accomplished.

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