When I discuss current events, I do my best to do so in a logical, fact-based way. It’s important to make sure the truth is told. Emotions can cloud that truth. Getting angry about a situation frequently leads to overreaction and overreach.
That said, Spock was (somewhat) wrong. Emotion isn’t necessarily the antithesis of logic. One’s emotions can positively inform one’s logic, and vice versa.
So I’m going to embrace some emotion right now, and let that feed into my thoughts on current events. Change is tougher if one doesn’t feel outraged from time to time. And right now, at the American southern border, there’s plenty of reason to feel outraged.
First of all, let me just start this off bluntly:
Donald Trump is holding thousands of children hostage in order to solidify his political base.
Whew. That felt slightly cathartic to write. At the same time, I feel sick to my stomach, knowing this is our country now.
Okay, deep breath. Let me take a few steps back.
It’s no secret that Donald Trump ran for the White House on a platform of demonizing immigrants. His kickoff campaign speech included an explicit claim that immigrants from Mexico were primarily criminals. One of his first executive orders was an attempt to ban the entry of all persons from seven majority-Muslim countries. Much of the success of his election campaign came from stoking the fear of the Other among white Americans. Donald Trump made it abundantly clear that “Making America Great Again” was a dogwhistle to white people who were afraid that progress for marginalized groups meant a loss of status and influence for themselves. Black and brown people moving in from other countries with weird religions and strange languages were a danger to the comfortable white supremacy they were used to. And that supremacy wasn’t always explicitly racist in the hood-wearing sense of the word (although it sometimes was that). The supremacy that Trump harkened back to was often a more recent one where white people felt comfortable watching Will Smith movies, and occasionally voting for a black city councilperson. But beyond the occasional token nod to the existence of others, this was still a world where white people – particularly straight, white, cisgendered men – still remained the American default position.
Donald Trump didn’t create that longing among America’s whites – but he did help give it strength. He gave it a voice. He was the backlash to the white fear of losing dominance. Because to many, losing dominance doesn’t mean equality. It means subjugation. It means suffering through what you’ve been dishing out all these years. And that idea – misguided as it was – is scary.
I digress a bit.
Yes, Donald Trump scared white people, and he certainly pushed for a harsh immigration policy. Hardliners on his team like Jeff Sessions and Stephen “Uncharismatic Dracula” Miller have been the primary architects of the worst of the Trump immigration policies, including the (shhh… don’t call it that) “Muslim ban.”
Then came March 2017. The Trump Administration – still new and flailing – considered implementing a policy that they described as “deterrence.” They would separate children from their families when those families arrived at the border. The idea was that such a harsh practice would scare families from even attempting to enter the US, thereby reducing immigration. At least, in theory.
By October, the Trump Administration was ramping up border enforcement, and had already started the practice of family rupturing – although they attempted to keep it quiet at that point. Between October 2017 and April 2018, more than 700 families had been broken up at the border. Many of these were asylum-seekers – basically refugees from dangerous and sometimes desperate lives.
On May 7th, the administration officially announced their “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared that all undocumented entries would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – including families with children. This was a notable change from the previous practice of allowing families, children, and people deemed non-threatening to find a place to stay with friends or relatives while awaiting processing.
This was where the Trump team officially admitted they were taking children from their parents and holding them indefinitely. They also claimed that a pilot program instituted in El Paso from the previous year had met with great success – and as always with this bunch – it turned out to be a massive lie.
From then on, the Trump Administration engaged in constant obfuscation and contradiction regarding what was happening at the border. Jeff Sessions would admit that family separations were taking place, and pushed the “deterrence” theory as an excuse. He pretty much blamed his boss for the current situation. He would also cite the Bible – Romans 13 – as a justification for the separations. It should be noted that Romans 13 was used by the American right to justify slavery and later Jim Crow. So there’s that.
But at the same time, Donald Trump himself would make the remarkable claim that “a Democrat law” was forcing the administration’s hand. He didn’t want this to happen. These poor kids deserved better. All that needed to happen was for the Democrats to “fix their law.” If only that mean old marginalized minority party would use their 47 votes in the Senate and go along with all of Trump’s personal demands on border policy, then those kids could be reunited with their parents. Back in Mexico, of course, but reunited nonetheless.
Oh yeah, and somewhere in there, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, flatly claimed there was no such policy of family separation.
Well. There’s a lot to unpack here. I’m not entirely sure where to begin.
When in doubt, use bullet points. They make for less unwieldy (more wieldy?) reading. Especially when one is slogging through my paragraphs.
So here goes:
- Trump’s position(s) is a lie. As always. There is no single law that mandates children be separated from their parents at border crossings.
- The Democratic Party has been in the minority in the Senate since January 2015, and in the minority in the House since January 2011. They cannot make or change any laws alone.
- The Democratic Party (in the Senate, anyway) has actually unanimously agreed to support a bill banning the practice of separating families at the border.
- There has been one law in particular cited by Trump defenders and surrogates to defend the position that “the Democrats did it, too.” In 1997, the Flores settlement obligated the government to release children as soon as possible into their parents care when said families were detained by immigration authorities. This claim was used to argue the opposite of reality. The Flores settlement simply was not a law that mandated the separation of families. It was essentially the reverse.
- The Obama administration’s policies are frequently brought up by Trump defenders. This part requires its own section. *cracks knuckles*
- The Obama Administration’s record on immigration was decidedly mixed. DACA was a real accomplishment, but the Obama Administration also oversaw 2.8 million deportations over 8 years. And family detention became a major controversy in 2014 during a surge of immigration that nobody seemed ready for. However, the Obama team attempted to reverse course on the old harsher detention and deportation policies – with inconsistent results.
- Obama seemed willing to learn from his mistakes. There was a slowness that could be frustrating, but efforts were made to reduce the harm done to those at the border. Enforcement of immigrants with criminal records became the priority, and the much vilified “catch and release” returned – kind of – where children, families, and those seeking asylum were allowed to remain in the States while their cases were processed. Obama represented imperfect and belated attempts at humanity on the southern border. Trump’s response was: why bother with humanity?
- Right now, as of June 19, 2018, nearly 2000 children have been separated from their parents at the southern border over the last six weeks – and around 2700 since last October.
- The current rate is around 45 children separated per day.
- They are being held in absolutely appalling conditions. There are multiple hoops to jump through, and many of the children themselves have largely been kept in the dark. There is little guarantee that they will be reunited with their parents. And the process of finding them homes is taking more than a month at a time. Imagine you are a child. You may not speak much (or any English). Your parents have just dragged you along a harrowing journey toward the prospect of a better life after years of fear, poverty, and violence. And then police forcibly take you from your parents, place you in tents and cages, and prevent you from knowing what the hell is going on, or where you’ll end up. That’s what’s going on right now.
- All of this is just what’s recent. In total, more than 10,000 immigrant children are being held without their parents in detention centers across the U.S..
- It’s important to note that those who use the policies of previous administrations to defend Trump are engaging in blatant whataboutism. Even if their claims about the earlier administrations were completely true (and they usually aren’t), they’re still making the argument that mistreating children is okay because someone else used to do it.
There are plenty more points to make, in both bullet and mortar form. But I believe the basic point is becoming clear here:
The endgame of the Trump team is to try to force Democrats into voting for his proposed immigration reforms. He’ll agree (he claims) to legislation banning the practice of ripping apart families in order to get his border wall, and to be able to drastically limit legal immigration.
That’s what this whole thing is about. Donald Trump is holding 2,000+ children hostage in order to be granted full Congressional blessing to wall off the country from foreign invaders. Remember when I talked about Trump fanning the flames of fear and resentment in white people? That’s what the whole point is. He wants white people to think that scary brown people from other parts of the world want to come in to the States, leach off our (rather tattered) safety net, and get away with all manner of crimes.
The narrative of immigrant criminality has been one of the constant themes of Trump’s political career. And it’s been one of the most thoroughly debunked. Study after study has demonstrated that first generation immigrants, both legal and otherwise, commit far less crime than their more established neighbors. Good information on this can be found here, here, here, here, and here. They pay taxes, yet receive fewer services. They contribute mightily to the economy, and take jobs that native rarely want.
But remember, from the beginning, Donald Trump has wanted you to know that people don’t come to the United States for a better life – they’re here to rape and pillage. And the only way to fight the melanin menace is to institute draconian border laws, and turn the United States into a fortress.
And he’s willing to place children into internment camps in order to get his way,
If your first reaction to criticisms of Trump breaking apart immigrant families is, “Obama did it, too,” then your problem is that partisanship is more important to you than morality.
If you’re told that children are being placed in cages for months at a time without their parents, and you respond, “they should just come in legally,” then congratulations – you just dehumanized thousands of refugee children.
Okay, still with me? I’m almost done here.
Thus far, I’ve taken over 1800 words to say what should have been one simple paragraph:
The safety and comfort of children should never be used as a political bargaining chip. No immigration policy is worth the suffering of children, whether it be honest policy, or like Trump’s – policy built entirely on lies. No child should have to spend night after night in a cage somewhere in southern Texas, not sure if they will ever see their parents again. This is sick and cruel, and should be beneath any human capable of comprehending the situation. We as humans have a near endless capacity for dehumanizing others – but I desperately hope that most people would be willing to put aside ideology for the sake of the defenseless and the innocent.
I fear my hope may be misplaced – at least in Trump’s America.
This is a humanitarian crisis, and our reactions to it over the coming days and weeks will go a long way towards helping us as Americans figure out just what kind of people we want to be. Do we want to take forward steps to a more humane future… or (apologies to Godwin) goose steps… back to a more barbaric past?