The horror of Trump’s policy to separate migrant children gets worse when one considers the possibility that Trump is trying to criminalize the right to seek asylum.
As the title of an excellent article by Nicholas Kristoff suggests, Trump’s anti-immigrant policy went from abhorrent to evil he started tearing families apart. While the administration has offered various excuses to justify their policy, given Trump’s public statements, it’s pretty clear this is about terrorizing people for being migrant and brown.
The backlash was so bad, that Trump tried to lie his way out of it by claiming the Administration is following established law.
Trump and his propaganda machine also lied when he said he was separating children from parents because the parents broke the law.
In defense of this lie Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told NPR:
“That’s no different than what we do every day in every part of the United States when an adult of a family commits a crime. If you as a parent break into a house, you will be incarcerated by police and thereby separated from your family.”
It’s profoundly different, beginning with the fact that seeking asylum is not in any way like breaking into a house. It’s more comparable to knocking at the door and asking the person who answers for help.
Seeking asylum is a right, not a crime, as noted by David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
“It’s perfectly legal for parents and children fleeing horrific violence and dangerous situations to apply for asylum in the U.S. They and their children deserve protection under the law, not inhumane treatment,”
Presenting yourself to ICE on either side of the border is not a crime. When the parents present themselves to ICE, they are also presenting their children to ICE. So far, no one is breaking a law that would result in imprisonment and separation from their family.
While crossing the border violates immigration law, it’s a misdemeanor.
That makes the “punishment” of separating children from their parents disproportionate and possibly a violation of the eighth amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Administration officials have, at times, claimed the policy is intended as a deterrent. However, if they bothered to research the subject they would have learned that comparable policies in other countries failed to deter people.
Trump knows there is no defense for his policy. That’s why he told the lie that it was a law passed by Democrats during his Sanctuary City round table on May 16.
A week earlier, Trump’s Attorney-General announced the policy though as AZ Central noted, there were reports migrant families were already been torn apart.
In fact, NPR reported on Trump’s family separation policy back in February, and Democrats wrote a letter to DHS Secretary Nielson on February 8th, citing complaints filed in December 2017.
Sessions claimed this policy would apply to families where parents broke the law. But since they are separating families of migrants who present themselves on the Mexican side of the border, that too is a lie This was noted by Kristoff in his article:
“Likewise, Ms. G, a Mexican in the A.C.L.U. suit, went to an official border crossing point and requested asylum with her 4-year-old son and blind 6-year-old daughter. None of them had broken American law, yet the children were taken from their mother.”
He goes on to point out that this is arbitrary, not that that is any consolation to the parents or children involved.
Even if Trump or Sarah Sanders tries to claim plausible ignorance, the Attorney-General cannot claim to be ignorant of the law.
Nor can they ignore the fact that this policy is traumatizing children. As noted by Dr. Lisa Fortuna in a report by NPR:
“Separations from their parents, especially in moments of extreme distress and displacement, has very negative impact on child well being, mental health, and development.”
It isn’t like the Trump administration cares about migrants or their children, unless of course, they’re from Denmark.