Family Separation 2.0 And Other Immigration Funtimes, Because Trump Sucks
Just in case anyone was under the impression Donald Trump's family separation policy was all over and done with, we've gotten all sorts of reminders this week that not only is the New Cruelty still chugging along, but Stephen Miller and his merry band of sociopaths are actively working on new ways to try to make life so miserable for people seeking asylum that they'll just give up and decide getting killed in Central America is less trouble. Our brave leaders are dead set on making America great again, at least for people who think that means Whites Only. For starters, Miller and company are pushing Trump to implement Family Separation 2.0, because they simply don't care how unpopular the first go-around was.
This time out, the Washington Post reports. instead of simply taking children away from border-crossers (including those seeking asylum) and sending the children off to child prisons from which they may or may not be reunited someday with their parents, the new plan is called "binary choice," with just two rotten options. Families would be held together in custody for up to twenty days (the amount of time the Flores settlement says children can be held in detention by ICE), after which parents would have to decide which shit sandwich to eat. Behind Prison Door Number One, they could be imprisoned with their kids until the family's immigration case is finally decided, which could take months, or, more likely, years. Or they could choose Prison Door Number Two: The parents would be detained for however many months or years, but the kids would be taken away to a shelter (or maybe a tent city) run by Health and Human Services, after which relatives or some other foster guardian could seek custody of the kids. Then if the parents win their immigration case, they might someday see their kids again. Isn't that much nicer? This way, migrants seeking asylum from gangs and violence will get an active choice in how the US government dehumanizes them.
Of course, it's not at all clear any of this would be legal, since the Flores settlement doesn't actually include a section okaying detention of children longer than 20 days if their parents are pressured to sign a note "choosing" between detention or having them taken away. But what the hell, it's Trumpland, you see:
The Trump administration believes it is on solid legal ground, according to two officials, in part because U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw, who ordered the government to reunite separated families in June, approved the binary-choice approach in one of his rulings. But a Congressional Research Service report last month said "practical and legal barriers" remain to using that approach in the future and said releasing families together in the United States is "the only clearly viable option under current law."
We suppose this would be a good place to mention (again) that in 2017, Team Trump killed off the Family Case Management Program, which closely monitored migrants with pending asylum cases instead of just cutting them loose and hoping they turned up for a hearing. Trump calls that latter approach "catch and release," and contends the migrants never showed up for hearings -- although there was plenty of incentive for them to show, since those hearings represent their chance for asylum. With the case management program, 99 percent of the enrolled families showed up for hearings and ICE check-ins -- even those who lost their cases and were eventually deported. But it was obviously a bad program since it didn't lock people up for seeking asylum. So hey, get ready for a whole new round of fuckery.
In other immigration news this week, the New Yorker brings us the throw-your-computer-out-the-window story of Helen, a five-year-old girl from Honduras who was taken away from her grandmother at the border in July -- a month after the supposed end of the family separation policy. It's heartbreaking, and you should read the whole thing. Weirdly, Helen was kept in detention -- oh, sure, a "shelter" -- even after her grandmother and the other adult family members she'd traveled with had been released, with ankle monitors. Helen's mother, Jeny, had already come to the US four years ago, but when she tried to apply to sponsor her own daughter, HHS kept holding things up -- it approved Jeny as a sponsor, but never quite decided Helen's grandmother was fit to be around her (after all, she was a criminal border crosser). Eventually, a petition drive got Helen released to her mom. After four months. Why so long? Paperwork. Had to make sure she wouldn't be trafficked. Or maybe nobody in the system gave a shit.
The other horrifying part? Helen was handed a form that she didn't understand and told to sign it. She printed her first name as neatly as she could. The form waived her right to a bond hearing -- one of those little legal matters on which five-year-olds are expected to make informed decisions these days.
Then Helen was also given some crayons and a picture of the Statue of Liberty to color, so she'd know a truly great country was doing all this to her.
No word on what the penalty for coloring outside the lines would be.
Oh, but there's more, too. HuffPo informs us of how ICE, in its wisdom, finally brought about the joyful reunion of another child with her family. Kind of. "Karla," one of the over 100 kids still being held since the July deadline to reunite ALL families separated between late April and June, was finally sent back home to her parents in Guatemala.
Oh, there was one little catch: ICE never contacted the girl's family to tell them she was being deported. So after she was taken from the airport in Guatemala City to a "reunification center," there was nobody there for her to be reunified with.
Instead of reuniting with her deported father, whom she hadn't seen since they crossed the U.S. border together six months ago, the child spent yet another night in a government-run shelter, according to Kids In Need of Defense, an organization helping the U.S. government to reunify families.
"Just imagining this 4-year-old going back [home] after months and months of separation ... and then her dad didn't show up after all of this," said Lisa Frydman, KIND's director of regional and policy initiatives. "The trauma level is unimaginable."
This is apparently not a one-time event. The DOJ says ICE has only handled "a relatively small number" of repatriations, but it sure does seem intent on screwing up when it gets the chance, probably to send the message in any way possible that no one should come to the US. But, you know, the federal government should probably not even let it happen once, let alone let it happen some unknown number of times and then be proud of how seldom it sends four-year-olds to other countries with no one to pick them up.
Finally, we'd urge you to read this excellent Guardian piece reporting on a three-month investigation into how Family Separation 1.0 played out. The reporters analyzed documents from over 3,500 cases filed against migrants over just a single week in the middle of May, when "zero tolerance" was in full swing. Among other findings, the report notes the federal courts "churned thousands of migrants through an assembly-line justice system with copy-and-paste criminal complaints converted to hastily accepted guilty pleas," and that fewer than 13 percent of the cases involved serious crimes like trafficking (human or drugs) or fraud or anything much more than the misdemeanor charge of crossing the border illegally. It's a depressing first draft of the history of this hell time.
And golly, what a success it was: All that prosecutorial energy, and border crossings are up this fall. Clearly, we just need to be a lot crueler, and then maybe people will stop fleeing for their lives.
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