'Trump Isn't Separating Families, Families Are Separating Families,' And Other ICE And DHS Lies
It was a big weekend for the New Cruelty, with the first tent city for kids opening in Texas and immediately becoming the focus of protests, the head of Homeland Security lying about the Trump administration's family separation policy, and one of the architects of that policy, Stephen Miller, telling the New York Times about what a brilliant policy it is. And more and more kids continue to be taken from their families. Let's round up the latest in the ongoing nightmare our crapsack nation has become.
Family Separation? I Never Met Her!
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen took to the Twitters to just cold lie about the family separation policy, which was announced in late April by Jeff Sessions and has taken more than 2,000 children away from their parents between then and now. But hey, none of this is due to an actual family separation policy, said Kjirstjen Njielsjen with Nordic precision:
See? There it is, plain as day, so would you all just shut up please? And it's true: there's no document with the heading "Family Separation for Fun and Profit." Instead, there's a "zero tolerance" policy of arresting everyone who crosses the border illegally and charging them with illegal entry, a misdemeanor for first-time offenders. And because those parents are sent to jail, the government takes the kids away and gives them to Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement to hold until they can be placed in "foster care or whatever." So you see, all the family separation is merely an inevitable side-effect of the real policy, but it's not a family separation policy. Isn't Kjjjjjstjjjjn Njjjjsjjjjn smjart?
Nielsen responded to the criticism of her tweet this morning in a speech before a New Orleans meeting of the National Sheriffs' Association, explaining that SHE'S not separating families, families are separating families:
This administration has a simple message: If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you. If you make a false immigration claim, we will prosecute you. If you smuggle illegal aliens across an extraordinarily dangerous journey, we will prosecute you.
But I have also made clear you do not need to break the law of this country by entering illegally to claim asylum. If you are seeking asylum, go to a port of entry.
Let's be honest, there's some who would like to us look the other way when dealing with families at the border and not enforce the law passed by Congress, including, unfortunately, some members of Congress [...] Past administrations may have done so, but we will not. We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are, in fact, a family. We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job. We have sworn to do this job.
There is, as we mention every goddamned time, no goddamned law requiring family separation. Also, notice how she sneaks in the justification for taking away children of asylum seekers -- maybe they're lying about being related, and also we have never heard of DNA testing.
Stephen Miller Very Proud Of His Family Separation Policy
Saturday, The New York Times published a good overview of how we got to this mess, making clear that family separation was always on the minds of the policy's two biggest boosters in the Trump administration, John Kelly and Stephen Miller. Miller was quite happy to explain why the Trumpers think taking children away from migrant parents is simply the best idea ever: They're lawbreakers and if this stops lawbreakers, then it's good.
"No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement," he said during an interview in his West Wing office this past week. "It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law."
Behind that bland assertion of lawfulness is a promise to use raw power against people: We can do this, so we will do this. And if it means taking children away from their parents, we'll do that too. (No mass arrests and charges against every lawbreaker who goes one mile per hour above the speed limit. We're OK with some lawlessness.)
The story also reminds us that Trump chose to go where other presidents decided not to: Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama's immigration teams flirted with variations on "zero tolerance" to see if getting harsh would reduce immigration, although they stopped short of separating children and parents. And yes, Obama experimented with detaining whole families together in ICE detention, a practice courts struck down in 2016. If Trump gets his way and Republicans eliminate existing protections for children and asylum seekers, the family separation policy would end, but it would be replaced by the indefinite family detention that we found intolerable just a few years ago.
Obama's DHS secretary, Jeh Johnson, gets credit for the sanest observation in the piece:
"I've seen this movie before, and I feel like what we are doing now, with the zero tolerance policy and separating parents and children for the purpose of deterrence, is banging our heads against the wall," he said. "Whether it's family detention, messaging about dangers of the journey, or messaging about separating families and zero tolerance, it's always going to have at best a short-term reaction."
Here's a crazy idea: how about actually helping Central American countries become less horrible so people won't be fleeing them? We aren't exactly dealing with a flow of asylum seekers from Canada, so maybe peace and prosperity is a good reason for people to stay in their home countries? Just spitballing there.
Laura Bush Has Had It Too
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, former first lady Laura Bush set herself up as a target for a Trump tweet by suggesting maybe we could not do this:
I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.
Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.
That may not have been the most convincing comparison for the animals setting immigration policy these days -- as Wonkette's Stephen Robinson pointed out in the ChatCave the other day, Donald Trump himself said in 2015 that he wasn't sure the internment of US citizens was such a bad idea. Just after he called for the Muslim ban, Trump told Time magazine,
"I would have had to be there at the time to tell you, to give you a proper answer [...] I certainly hate the concept of it. But I would have had to be there at the time to give you a proper answer" [...]
"It's a tough thing. It's tough," he said. "But you know war is tough. And winning is tough. We don't win anymore. We don't win wars anymore. We don't win wars anymore. We're not a strong country anymore. We're just so off.
But now we are tough. And we are winning. We can't afford human decency anymore, because we're at war with invaders, as Trump tweetstormed again this morning:
Culture War Is Not Healthy For Children And Other Living Things
Bush's op-ed also touched on another matter that Yr Wonkette will do a closer look at in a later piece: Separating young kids from their parents, especially the way Team Trump is doing it, damages children, even if it's done as humanely as possible. And we're not doing it humanely:
Recently, Colleen Kraft, who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics, visited a shelter run by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. She reported that while there were beds, toys, crayons, a playground and diaper changes, the people working at the shelter had been instructed not to pick up or touch the children to comfort them. Imagine not being able to pick up a child who is not yet out of diapers.
We're now simply waiting for somebody from TrumpWorld to explain such no-comfort measures are all the fault of feminism and #MeToo.
Just to prove that its real name should be the American Patriarchy Association, the American "Family" Association published an editorial under the byline of its president, Tony Perkins, arguing that while it may be sad, family separation is all the parents' responsibility, for being lawbreakers. Yes, it very approvingly quoted the Bible Wisdom of Jeff Sessions and Sarah Sanders. As the ACLU's Brian Tashman twote in reply, "Can the press stop calling them a 'pro-family' group?"
America Should Be Ashamed Of What It's Doing
Yr Wonkette could just as well start using that as a headline for everything now. This time, though, it applies to this New York Times profile of parents who have been caught crossing the border illegally, had their kids taken away by the not-family-separation policy, were prosecuted on misdemeanor charges and then deported -- without getting their children back. It's every bit as heartbreaking as you'd expect, and it's yet more evidence that not only is the Trump administration needlessly cruel, it's also weaponizing its own incompetence: This policy was slammed into place with little planning, and the government is making a lot of it up as they go along. As a result, children are being taken away but not returned to their parents, even after the parents are no longer in the USA. Yet another piece you need to read to believe.
That puts the lie to those -- like Kirstjen Von Nielsen -- who say this is exactly how all criminals are treated. The claim is that if you go to jail for DUI, you can't keep your kid with you in jail. But when American citizens get charged and released pending trial, or if they plead guilty to a misdemeanor and are released with time served, we don't take eight months to return the kids from a detention center a thousand miles away.
God damn America.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.