The latest tactic of the Trump administration to stop illegal crossings of their southern border is horrific. It is child abuse, pure and simple. As most of you probably already know, the US is now separating all parents and children when they SUSPECT the parents crossed the border illegally. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement with pride, apparently having no issues with his decision personally.

There is no legal requirement to do this. It is being done deliberately as a deterrent. In a typical conservative mindset that “getting tough” will sort out the problem, the idea is supposedly that if you take away their children, people will no longer attempt to cross the southern border illegally. General John Kelly, when he was head of Homeland Security, said as long ago as March 2017 that they were considering automatic removal of children from parents as a deterrent. Now that policy is is place.

On top of that, Donald Trump is blaming Democrats. He is using a law that came in under the George W Bush administration in 2008 that neither the Bush nor the Obama administration used except in extreme circumstances (such as when abuse of children was suspected). In addition, he is saying that the Democrats in Congress could change “their” law if they wanted to. For someone who is so fond of touting his own election victory, you’d think he would have noticed that his party has control of both the House and the Senate, and it’s up to the Republicans whether any laws get passed.

Cartoon: Trump on policy re children

 

After they take these children, the US government is “caring for” them in prison-like conditions. There are pictures of some of  them are sleeping on concrete floors in cages. (Fox News tries to say they aren’t cages – see ‘The Daily Show’ video below.) The children have no idea WHEN they will see their parents again. You can imagine that many wonder IF they will ever see their parents again. Likewise, their parents don’t know when they will see their children again.

This is simply unconscionable. These children have done nothing wrong. Many of their parents have likewise done nothing wrong. That makes no difference to the authorities. The separation of children from parents is now a matter of course.

Trump could change this any time with one phone call. The truth is the situation is like it is because he wants it that way.

 

Jeff Sessions, US Attorney General

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. The name itself inspires visions of the southern US in a time when slavery was legal and the brutal treatment of those slaves normal. Jeff Sessions tells anyone who’ll listen that he’s loving his job, and his latest thrill is to turn all border staff into child abusers. It’s like a modern day Inquisition.

As if to cement the image, Sessions is even quoting the Bible in support of his “zero tolerance” policy.

 

Cartoon: Session Bible Children

 

Senator Diane Feinstein said yesterday that so far almost 2,000 children were in this situation. About 1,000 of those are in an abandoned Wal-Mart.

Even worse, McClatchy DC Bureau reports:

The Trump administration is looking to build tent cities at military posts around Texas to shelter the increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children being held in detention.

The Department of Health and Human Services will visit Fort Bliss, a sprawling Army base near El Paso in the coming weeks to look at a parcel of land where the administration is considering building a tent city to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children, according to U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the plans.

HHS officials confirmed that they’re looking at the Fort Bliss site along with Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo for potential use as temporary shelters.

“HHS will make the determination if any of the three sites assessed are suitable,” said an HHS official.

 

A Paediatrician Weighs In

Paediatrician Dr Julie Linton, Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Immigrant Health Special Interest Group, spoke to Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC. She’s quite clear that these children are now at risk of both short-and long-term health problems, both physical and mental.

I also heard her on CNN‘s ‘AC360’ (18 June, US time). It doesn’t matter, Dr Linton said, how good the care of the children is. Just taking them away from their parents is enough to do “irreparable harm to children.” Short-term effects include changes in bodily functions, toileting problems, difficulty learning, behavioural problems, and more. She further said the long-term effects “absolutely” include, “diabetes, and heart disease, and depression.”

She said both she and a colleague saw the conditions the children were in. They do not consider them acceptable, and thought they were likely to be “profoundly traumatizing to a child.” The children are usually only in the ex-Wal-Mart about for 72 hours before going to relatives or foster parents. However, that’s a long time for a child.

Further, while HHS (US Department of Health and Human Services) may extol their ability in finding places for the children to go, the point is it’s still away from their parents.

Honduras

Photo-journalist Tomas Ayuso writes, among other things, about why parents leave Honduras with their young children and risk the journey to the US:

Migration is born as a result of different rights becoming elusive in 21st century Honduras: the right to housing, the right to a dignified source of income, and more recently, the right to grow old. …

This particular chapter deals with the increasing number of Hondurans caught in Mexican limbo. Between the United States’ increased border bluster and Mexico’s anti-migrant campaign, the transit country has turned into a long haul grind. Yet still the horrors that happened on the migrant route that spread through word of mouth, are a better alternative to staying in Honduras; a country its citizens consider a collapsed.

The phrase, “the right to grow old,” struck me. Hondurans feel they have lost that right, and that is why they are leaving. The story is similar in other Central American countries.

Cartoon: Why parents leave Central America

 

When the policy of separating children from parents first began, none of the migrants knew about it. However, knowing about it isn’t going to stop them from risking the trip. Yes, it is horrific, but at least their children will survive. That is becoming less and less likely if they stay in Honduras.

The way to stop people from leaving Honduras is not to take their children away, but to help Honduras to become a country that its citizens don’t want to leave.

 

The Catholic Church

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is everywhere on US TV condemning  the policy of separating parents and children. He began by criticizing Sessions’ use of the Bible to back up his announcement. As with everyone attacking Sessions on that point, he’s coming up with verses that say the opposite.

But Dolan went a step further on one show I saw on CNN. He tried to tell everyone that the verse Sessions was quoting didn’t mean we had to follow all laws, just good laws. He tried to prove as part of his argument that the Christian God and the Bible are the basis on morality. (I would love to have taken over the interview from Chris Cuomo at that point because of course Cuomo didn’t challenge the screwed up logic. However, I digress.)

Even the pope has taken to Twitter to comment:

As Trevor Noah of ‘The Daily Show’ says:

If even the Catholic Church is judging you for how you treat children, you damn fucked up!

Here’s the whole video (it’s really good as well as hilarious – take the time to watch it if you can – it’s only 7:32):

 

Supporters of Separation of Children from Parents Policy

A CNN survey released on 18 June (US time) reported that 28% of all USians approved of the policy to separate children from their parents and 67% opposed it.

However, the breakdown was demonstrative of the strong partisan divide in the US:

Republicans: 58% approve; 34% disapprove
Independents: 27% approve; 68% disapprove
Democrats: 5% approve; 92% disapprove

The supporters seem to mainly fall into three groups:

1. Those who support it because they were worked up by Trump’s pre- and post-election rhetoric of “Build the Wall,” and see this as a necessary part of opposing illegal immigration.
2. Those who think the only alternative to this is “catch and release,” (what Obama did) which failed to deal with the problem.
3. Those who genuinely believe that this will deter people from attempting to cross the border illegally.

None of these three groups appear to be taking into account the fact that vast numbers of the Central American migrants in particular are asylum seekers. When they arrive they present themselves to the border authorities in the proper manner and tell them they are seeking asylum, they are not crossing the border illegally

 

The Asylum Process

When some presents at the border and says they are seeking asylum, international law takes over. There must be a legal hearing to decide whether the person meets the requirements to be granted asylum. As I said above, these people have NOT broken the law; they are following the law. Some may not have even stepped over the border.

However, despite that, they are arrested, and their children are taken from them. The parents go to prison, and the children to detention centres. Many of the supporters of the Trump administration policy soothe their consciences by saying that these are not really asylum seekers. Instead, they had previous coaching on what to say by people smugglers.

This may be true in some cases, but how do they know that? It’s not for them to say. It’s up to a judge to decide. Under the Obama administration these people were released with the hope that they would turn up for their asylum hearing, which could be years in the future. Of course, if they weren’t genuine, that was often the last that was ever heard of them.

This is a problem looking for a solution, though there’s an obvious one. If there were enough lawyers, judges, and other necessary staff to hear cases in a reasonable time, asylum seekers and their children could be detained together until their cases were heard.

 

Republicans Speak Out

Democrat Diane Fienstien has a Bill that will enable families to be kept together. I have not read it, and I do not know what’s in it. However, the point is that it exists and it can go through a process of politicians doing what they are supposed to – compromising to find a solution they can both agree on. Republicans will not support it. Therefore, as usual, it’s Trump that’s lying. It’s not Democrats that are the ones doing, but Republicans.

However, to be fair, the are many Republican politicians speaking out against the zero-tolerance policy and this time, it’s not just ones that are retiring, though they are speaking out too. Time reports that Maine Senator Susan Collins, former Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci, current Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, and Jeb Bush all oppose the policy.

Since that article came out, Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Will Hurd, both of Texas, have said they oppose it too. As the state with the longest southern border, that’s significant. In fact, it tends to be politicians in the border states, who know the situation best, that oppose the current zero-tolerance policy.

First lady Melania Trump has spoken against it too. Her office issued a statement saying:

We need to be a country that follows all laws, but also one that governs with heart.

On top of that all four living former first ladies are speaking up as well. Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Laura Bush. Mrs Bush even wrote an opinion piece in the Washington PostLaura Bush: Separating children from their parents at the border ‘breaks my heart’.

 

Solutions: Asylum Seekers

I understand why the Trump Administration feels the need to detain the people presenting at their border, even though I don’t agree with it. My suggestion would be that rather than put the adults in prison and the children in detention centres, the families are kept together in detention centres. This is what Australia does with the boat people that want to seek asylum in their country.

(However, the asylum centres in Australia are pretty horrific places. I would hope that the US can do a better job than Australia does.)

Then, they should increase the numbers of lawyers, judges, and other staff, so that the asylum process can be expedited. Of course, those who are genuinely crossing the border illegally should be immediately sent back to their own country.

 

Other Solutions

The US should also make a point of prosecuting employers who illegally employ people. That rarely or never seems to happen. Sessions’ Justice Department seems to take pleasure in focusing on the weakest people – the illegal immigrants. It must be noted though that the law makes things very difficult for employers who are unable to find staff locally. There is often a good reason that those employers use illegal labour. The law needs to be fixed.

Part of the problem with the extreme partisanship infecting the US is that immigration has become an all or nothing situation. Instead of biting off the bits that both sides can compromise on, it has become politically expedient for Republicans to block any kind of compromise in relation to immigration. You may remember this tweet from my last post:

 

Many Republicans are too scared to compromise on immigration policies in case it means losing the election. Retaining power is more important than doing the right thing. We can only hope that the suffering of these children is finally enough to make a difference.

It worked with bringing in sensible gun safety laws didn’t it? …


Update 20 June 2018 (19 June US time):

Vox, in cooperation with Propublica released this video, which includes audio of a small number of children just separated from their parents at the border. Now multiply this scene by several hundred; the number of children taken from their parents is now up to around 2,300.

 

And just as an aside: ‘President Trump Vows To Deport Puerto Ricans Back To Mexico‘. Yep. He seems to think that Puerto Ricans are Mexicans.


 

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