A Facebook Live question and answer session hosted by the State Department on Tuesday promised “Family Travel Hacks,” but soon became a platform for critics to blast the Trump administration over the separation of children and parents at the US-Mexico border.
“Are you traveling with kids this year?” the organizers ask in the event’s description. “Have questions about getting their passports, and want tips to make travel easier?”
“Join us for a Facebook Live with Carl and Kim from Passport Services,” they continued. “They’ll share lots of tips with you to make traveling with the whole family easier.”
But instead of the usual questions about applying for a baby’s first passport, Carl and Kim were inundated with sarcastic queries about how to avoid family separation at the border.
“If I am mistaken for a foreigner trying to enter the country illegally and ICE takes my children away and locks them in a cage will the State Department help me get them back?” asked Facebook user Christian Day in an early comment.
“Hi,” said user Mateo Vargas, “I just wanted to ask if the US government had measures in place to return the children they kidnap to their families?”
The questions continued for over two hours. Some alluded to audio recordings that first emerged on the nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica on Monday, in which children in detention were heard crying and asking to call family members.
“Before traveling I plan to help my child memorize phone numbers of family members,” said Electra Lorraine Botts. “Will the detention tent camp workers have phones available for my child to call for help, or are phones banned because they might use them to film atrocities.”
Other users expressed concerns about the conditions in the detentions centers.
“Any tips to beat the heat for toddlers locked up in a tent camp in 100+ degree heat in the Texas sun?” asked Matt Schneider. “And what type of baby pajamas go best with tinfoil blankets?”
“I can’t find any of your child detention facilities on TripAdvisor,” noted Barry Burciul. “Can you let me know which ones have the highest detainee satisfaction ratings?”
“Do you provide nut-free cages for children with allergies?” asked Chris Hampton.
“What’s the difference between a cage and a chain linked partition?” said Joseph Saitta. “Asking for a child.”
Will Urquhart was more pointed with his criticism, asking the silent government employees, “How do you sleep at night knowing you’re part of an administration committing a crime against humanity and torturing children as hostages to try to get votes for a stupid border wall?”
At the time of this writing, more than two hours after the event began, there were over 50 such questions, but no responses from the State Department’s passport services office.
User Christina Hale chimed in, “Is this thing on? *tap tap*”
Carl and Kim, who identified themselves by first name only, did post a video to the State Department consular service’s Facebook page in which they cheerfully spoke about their own experiences getting passports for their young children.
In the video, the pair answer questions about applying for passports and replacing lost passports – questions that did not appear to have been originated on the Facebook Live discussion page.
In a written response, a State Department official told CNN the event was part of “a public awareness campaign with tips and reminders for US citizens applying for their US passports – the targeted audience is young parents applying for their child’s first US passport.”
“Our goal is to share practical tips for getting a US passport for US citizens and their families to prepare for summer vacations,” the official continued. “The #FamilyTravelHacks campaign is a seasonal outreach campaign and some of the messages are similar to the ones we shared during last year’s summer campaign.”
“Many of the messages are part of the ongoing outreach Passport Services does throughout the year to help explain to parents how to apply for their kids’ US passports,” said the official.