The New York Times reports today that the Trump administration plans to start those mass deportations of immigrants that the "president" delayed after tweeting about them and spoiling the surprise. In typical Trump fashion, the final details of the operation "remain in flux" and Homeland Security officials worry it could be a PR nightmare if American-born children of undocumented migrants are scooped up too -- not that Trump cares about either bad public relations or anyone in Puerto Rico. The more cruelty the better, because he believes asylum seekers will only stay away if America becomes a greater nightmare than the countries they're fleeing. It's a bit like deterring refugee ships by setting your own ports on fire and spreading plague among the residents.

As a useful bit of contrast, the Washington Post's Greg Sargent brings us a story on legislation about to be introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley, the Oregon Democrat who's been a leader in fighting Trump's immigration cruelty, and by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Co-sponsored by over 35 Democratic senators (including the 30 or so running for president), it's a pretty impressive package of proposals. Along with Julián Castro's immigration plan, it should become a blueprint for immigration reform in the post-Trump era. Yes, we need to get to that era first.

As you may recall, Merkley's efforts to inspect a Texas baby jail last summer led the White House to accuse him of loving rapists. He also called on the FBI to investigate Kirstjen Nielsen for lying to Congress about the family separation policy. Merkley and Schumer will introduce legislation aimed at making family separation illegal once and for all, guaranteeing humane treatment of detained immigrants, and addressing asylum claims quickly, with legal support for asylum seekers.

"The strategy of treating refugees deliberately in a fashion that injures them to discourage additional immigration is unacceptable under any moral code or religious tradition," Merkley told [Sargent].

"This legislation is a necessary step to restore America's moral credibility, and an example of how we can deal with our immigration issues with dignity and common sense," Schumer said in a statement sent my way.

The Merkley-Schumer proposal would codify in law an explicit prohibition on separating families, except in certain limited circumstances, such as when it's determined the child is in danger

In addition to banning family separation, the bill would reaffirm the Flores settlement agreement, which would mean ICE would have to release detained families along with their kids after 20 days.

Instead of Trump's insistence on punitive measures and making asylum harder to seek, the Merkley-Schumer proposal would aim to move asylum seekers through the system quickly and fairly. It would hire a lot more immigration judges to work through the backlog of asylum cases, which currently involves waits of months, or more likely, years.

And it would bring back and fully fund the Family Case Management program, the Obama-era program that assigned case managers who helped more than 95 percent of asylum applicants make it to court. It worked, so of course Trump ended it.

Says Sargent:

The basic theory here is that Trump's argument is false: Families actually do show up for hearings at very high rates. The best statistics show this is true, and also show that the rate climbs even higher when families have lawyers. Indeed, the family case management program that Trump nixed — and Democrats would fund — had been hugely successful in getting families to show up.

The core idea: If you make it more likely that families will succeed in qualifying for asylum, while also beefing up efforts to track and support them, they will show up en masse. In many cases, they will stay with other family members.

In short, Democrats argue that the release of families awaiting hearings is not a bad thing and is eminently manageable. "When there's a case manager who stays in regular contact and alerts you of hearings, people show up," Merkley told me.

You know, due process and stuff, like America is allegedly all about. In other words, "loopholes" and "open borders."

Mind you, this is a complete contrast with Trump's approach to immigration, as force-fed to the nation by Trump's chief goose-stuffers, Stephen Miller and the Fox News Paté Works. (You thought we were going to say "goose steppers." We won't call you wrong.) Trump wants to eliminate asylum, or at least restrict it so much that the only people it can help are Christians fleeing ISIS, and even they're iffy since they're still Middle Eastern and could turn into terrorists at any moment. The very idea that anyone at all might qualify for asylum is anathema to this crew, which just plain hates that America has ever shown mercy to anyone.

Beyond the Merkley-Schumer bill, other Democratic proposals would seek to reduce the need for asylum by improving conditions in impoverished Central American countries, and by building more "regional solutions to share the refugee burden." Making it possible for people to apply for asylum while in another country would also help.

And for people who are detained, Merkley and Schumer would codify basic standards of care so that we'll never have to see Justice Department lawyers arguing that withholding soap or blankets from imprisoned children might be legal. Border Patrol would be required to provide an immediate medical assessment of kids, and minimal standards of cleanliness and nutrition would be defined. Not because that's luxury, but because we're talking about human beings.

And on the House side of things, Rep. Pramila Jayapal has her own damn bill to not only clean up the baby jails, but also to get private prisons out of the immigration detention business altogether.

Needless to say, the usual screamers will portray all of this as inviting the immigrant hordes to invade America, but since when should we listen to a bunch of racist fearmongers? Cruelty hasn't been accomplishing a hell of a lot beyond just the cruelty, which of course is fun in itself for these people. Maybe we could sell it as preventing the terrorism that our current system seems bent on causing when the kids we're abusing now grow up.

[WaPo / NYT / Julián Castro campaign / Christian Science Monitor]

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Doktor Zoom

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.


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