by William Skink
Is outrage peaking over the Trump regime’s enforcement of immigration policies? I don’t know, but Facebook is cluttered with pic-click activism as indignant Americans find another reason to detest President Trump. But don’t try to provide context to how pre-Trump administrations are complicit in all this because they don’t want to hear it.
An executive director of a Missoula non-profit had this to say on Facebook: “I am really tired of hearing that this is a policy put forth by Dems. That is a complete lie. The “zero tolerance” policy was put forth this spring by the Trump Administration.”
It is not actually a complete lie to say the policy infrastructure existed before Trump to do what Trump’s border gestapo is now doing. Yes, previous administrations did not impose a zero tolerance policy, so the scale of what is happening now was not happening under previous regimes, but that is not to say it wasn’t happening at all.
The key distinction is between people entering the United States illegally and those appealing for asylum. What Trump’s gestapo is now doing is criminally prosecuting even asylum seekers, and that is why they are able to separate children from their families.
This Vox piece does a pretty good job describing what is happening. To answer the question “Is the policy of separating families new?” the article states the following:
Yes. But it’s building on an existing system, and attention to family separation has brought more awareness to problems with that system that have been going on for some time.
For the past several years, a growing number of people coming into the US without papers have been Central Americans — often families, and often seeking asylum. Asylum seekers and families are both accorded particular protections in US and international law, which make it impossible for the government to simply send them back. Those protections also put strict limits on the length of time, and conditions, in which children can be kept in immigration detention.
When the Obama administration attempted to respond to the “crisis” of families and unaccompanied children crossing the border in summer 2014, it put hundreds of families in immigration detention — a practice that had basically ended several years before. But federal courts stopped the administration from holding families for months without justifying the decision to keep them in detention. So most families ended up getting released while their cases were pending — which immigration hawks have derided as “catch and release.” In some cases, they disappeared into the US rather than showing up for their court dates.
The Trump administration has stepped up detention of asylum seekers (and immigrants, period). But because there are such strict limits on keeping children in immigration detention, it’s had to release most of the families it’s caught.
The government’s solution has been to prosecute larger numbers of immigrants for illegal entry — including, in a break from previous administrations, large numbers of asylum seekers. That allows the Trump administration to ship children off to ORR, rather than keeping them in immigration detention.
I am not looking into the context of this to try and provide any kind of cover for what Trump is doing because it’s despicable and cruel to terrorize children for any reason, and that is ultimately the consequence of this policy to separate kids from their adult family members seeking asylum.
But, I also don’t think it’s all that helpful to reflexively blame Trump without at least trying to understand how we got to this point, because if people don’t understand they will assume the opposite of TRUMP DO BAD is that DEMOCRATS DO GOOD (if only they can get your vote and ride that blue wave come November).
On Democracy Now Renee Feltz, a DN correspondent and producer, asked some important questions about what happens after the cycle of outrage runs its course:
We just heard from Michael, who is a young man who’s saying he’s fleeing, essentially, gang violence. And we’ve seen Attorney General Jeff Sessions say that that’s no longer going to be accepted as a reason to come here seeking asylum, as well as women who suffer domestic violence. Now, what are we going to say when we look at what happens after Democrats and Republicans are done being outraged about the separation of young children from their parents? What about slightly older children, such as Michael, who’s 17? What about children as young as 10 or 11? Many of them might go on to be characterized as potential recruits for MS-13, who we’ve seen President Trump speak out against widely.
Now, will the Democrats compromise and say we can agree to deport these type of kids or to put them into these juvenile detention centers, essentially, or will they claim that these young children should also be kept with their parents, in terms of keeping families together? And so, when we talk about following the money, some people are asking: If Democrats regain control of the House later this year, will they consider things like abolish ICE? If they’re so unhappy with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will they cut off the funds? And if not, why?
Because what is happening at the border right now is so heart-wrenching there is mounting pressure to do something, and in these situations doing something is usually seen as preferable to doing nothing. What will that something be to stop this inhumane treatment of human beings? Billions for a stupid wall? Money to fight gang recruitment? Forced manual labor at a Trump Hotel?
For Democrats nervously thinking about November, there are additional questions to be asking, like how to leverage outrage into donations and/or votes. What they won’t be asking is how to change American foreign policy so countries like Honduras don’t become violent hell-holes people feel compelled to flee in order to survive. They won’t ask because their party has been complicit in destabilizing the very places now being referenced by asylum seekers as their reason for trying to come to the US in the first place.
I can’t imagine having my children taken from me, it’s almost too horrible to think about. And I can’t imagine the impossible choices involved in calculating if it’s worth the risk to stay and face narco-gangs and corrupt governments in the south, or make the trip north to the heart of the capitalist cartel’s most successful experiment in wealth accumulation.
The only hope is that by unleashing the border Gestapo Trump has provided the catalyst to legislative action. If Democrats win in large enough numbers, and they have massive public support behind actual reform, maybe something will come of it.
At the end of the day a government that condones putting children in cages is a government that should not be allowed to exist.