This is something conservatives once deeply understood: Children need their parents, and their absence is damaging. It’s why stay-at-home motherhood is common among religious conservatives and is deeply honored, and one of the many reasons why homeschooling is viewed as a sacrifice in favor of a child’s emotional well-being, in addition to their academic and spiritual development. It’s why conservative think tanks, religious groups, and organizations devote vast amounts of resources to defending the importance of fathers in the lives of their children.
Outside of the Trump administration, many conservatives see the family-separation policy in precisely these terms. The writer Meg Conley pointed to the story of a Honduran woman who fled her country after her home was tear gassed. She was separated from her 18-month-old son for more than two months, the child in foster care, and the mother in a detainment center. “Have you ever lost your child for just a moment?”