President Donald Trump’s four years in office have been disastrous in so many ways. The crumbling of a functional federal government. Tens of thousands of lives likely lost because of his slow response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The abandoned efforts to rein in carbon emissions, shift to renewable energy sources and slow the advance of devastating climate change. But for utter base cruelty, none top Trump’s inhumane treatment of children.

This month a federal judge in New York ordered a halt to the administration’s most recent abhorrent practice: the summary expulsion of some 8,800 unaccompanied children.

Many of the minors were expelled from the U.S. as soon as they arrived — removals that appear to defy federal laws — while others were detained in shelters and, in some cases, hotels until travel arrangements could be made.

The Trump administration had assumed “breathtakingly broad” powers to remove 200,000 people since March. The Associated Press reported last month that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control initially found no reason to invoke the law and deny people entry, but was ordered to do so by Vice President Mike Pence, who oversees the White House coronavirus response.

It’s clear that the pandemic gave the anti-immigrant zealots in the White House cover to expand on three years’ worth of coldheartedness toward migrants, particularly children.

These are some of the same government officials who thought it was a good idea to try to deter desperate families fleeing unimaginable violence and poverty in parts of Central America by arresting the parents for entering the country to ask for asylum — entries that were allowed under U.S. law — and then, because the parents were to be jailed, separating them from their children.

In its haste, the government didn’t bother to keep track of where the children and the adults wound up, and to this day, the advocacy groups assigned by courts to the task of reuniting these families are struggling to find the parents of 545 children.

FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES