Stephen Colbert switched gears Thursday night, moving away from jokes to "the conversation everyone should be having," he said. On the "Late Show," the host broke down attorney general Jeff Sessions' and the Trump administration's new policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the Southern border. In a powerful statement — part explanation, part public charge — Colbert underscored that the onus of this cruelty is on us all.
"Usually for me to talk about a news story on this show, especially a tragic one, is that it has to be one that everyone is already talking about," the late night comic said. "But this story is different. This is the conversation everyone should be having."
"So far 1,358 children have reportedly been ripped from their families at the U.S. border," Colbert continued. "Now, if it sounds evil, then good news: Your ears are working. Here’s the bad news: the United States? That’s you and me, who are putting up with our government saying to immigrants, 'If you come to the United States, the worst thing imaginable will happen to you. We will take your children away from you with no guarantee you’ll see them again.'"
Colbert's appeal echoed protests by activists in dozens of cities across the country Thursday, who voiced outrage at the Department of Justice's policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the border from Mexico and separating migrant children from their families. The barbaric effort is part of the "zero tolerance" immigration stance that Trump campaigned on.
Colbert emphasized this motivation. This new policy "is using cruelty as a deterrent," he said. "That’s not my interpretation — that is our stated intention. Three government officials said, 'Part of the reason for the proposal is to deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children.' The other part is just recreational racism."
The comedian added that this process is particularly manipulative and misleading. Colbert cited a report published by the Independent, which says:
Federal public defenders say that immigration enforcement officials in the United States have repeatedly deceived immigrant parents arriving in the U.S. seeking shelter from violent conditions in their home country, telling those individuals that they are taking their children away for baths or other benign reasons only to never return with them.
While to most people this would be indefensible, Sessions found a Bible verse he apparently feels justifies such a traumatic, inhumane policy and process.
In a speech to law enforcement officials in Fort Wayne, Ind., Sessions said: "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes."
Colbert pointed out Sessions' selective reading of the Bible — just past the section the attorney general deployed as defense for ripping children from their parents is the famous passage about loving your neighbor. "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law," Colbert read from Romans 13:10.
As the administration is brainstorming places to house immigrant children, Colbert said, "It wouldn’t matter if you took these children to really nice hotels — or Trump hotels — we’d still be the only country in the whole damn world doing it, because it’s just plain wrong."
"So for Father’s Day, call your elected representatives and demand they do something," Colbert added. "Because I sincerely believe that it doesn’t matter who you voted for — if we let this happen in our name, we are a feckless country."