In this Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, photo, provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, immigrants walk into a building at South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. Currently housing 1,520 mothers and their children, about 10 percent are families who were temporarily separated and then reunited under a “zero tolerance policy” that has since been reversed. (Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP)

Sometimes there is an event, initiative, court decision that is monumental in its effect but almost too much to put into words. What is going on with immigrant families in this country right now fits this definition. Even if the practice of separating immigrant parents from their children has stopped—and it is not clear that it has, at least not entirely—there apparently remain more than two thousand children who have been taken from their parents and whose return appears difficult to accomplish. Even a court order for their return appears to be largely ineffectual.

This is a problem entirely of the administration’s making. Nothing compelled this forced separation of parents and children and it does not appear that it happened in this way in the past. So the presidential decree that it stop is hardly either a heroic or a sufficient act. It is a problem created by the people who now declare that it should stop. And certainly, it should stop. And every child taken away must be returned immediately. This is no time for procedural delay. The children must be returned right now, with no delay.

There may be no resources for housing, feeding, and caring for the families. That also has to be solved. This is not a situation that happened overnight. It was apparent that it was going to happen. This country has agencies that deal with emergencies. This is the time for them to act. And not every parent and family needs to be kept pending the resolution of their case. Electronic monitoring is used on people charged with much more serious crimes than entering this country. There is no reason it cannot be used now. Families with relatives in this country who are ready and willing to take them in now should be allowed to do so.

That is the cure, at least for now. But what is the damage? Incalculable. In a matter of a few weeks, this country has created a group of children and families who are traumatized, and they are, for the most part, people who only came here because they had suffered harm and danger in their countries of origin. Child psychologists have become a chorus of warning, telling how the forced, brutal separation of children from their parents will have a lasting effect on those children. Have we created a population of permanently injured children who may become the terrorists or gang members of the future? Have we turned America, the land of hope, into America, the land of torture? Is this who we are?

We applaud the many attorneys and others who are working tirelessly to right these many wrongs, and we support their efforts. But we have to step back and look at what is going on in this country and ask how we can possibly not act to put things right.