Pictured: A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker about to be taken from her mother and placed in a facility where the staff (according to an interview) “is not allowed to comfort her.”
June 16, 2016
We are now essentially torturing parents who legally seek asylum in the United States (and their children), by taking away their minor children, caging those children, and telling the parents they may never be reunited—all to “deter” them (and those like them) from exercising their legal rights under U.S. law. This new Trump “zero tolerance policy” (announced and implemented April 6, 2018 by Jeff Sessions) is evil and not based on our laws.
As some of you know, I used to be a lawyer, and in the 1980s I used to do pro bono political asylum work for Salvadorans fleeing death squads. U.S. law allows you to claim political asylum here if you have a “well-founded fear of persecution” in your home country that fits within specified categories. You can either present yourself at a point of entry and claim asylum (risky—you aren’t afforded a lawyer and most asylum claims are turned down) or you can claim asylum as a defense to deportation.
Now on our southern border, the U.S. is (contrary to law) refusing to admit those legally claiming asylum. They are forcing immigrants to cross into the U.S. illegally, and then arresting them and (even if they have a defense to being deported because of a potentially valid asylum claim) taking their children to be housed in a concentration camp—an abandoned WalMart filled with cages or a new tent camp in 100 degree Texas heat on a military base. This is being done, per Jeff Sessions and Mitch McConnell, to “deter” them from seeking asylum—that is, as a punishment to them, to deter others from doing the same thing. Even though that thing (claiming asylum) is completely legal under U.S. law.
Accounts from Congressional Representatives and pro-bono attorneys reveal that parents are told that their children are being taken away “to get a bath” and then the children are not returned. When asked how they’ll be reunited, parents are being told “your families do not exist anymore.” Parents have been deported and they don’t know where their children are. Because there are at least four federal bureaucracies involved (CBP, DHS, ICE, ORR in addition to private prison corporations and the DOJ) and there was no planning for implementing the policy none of attorneys representing them, the Customs and Border Patrol, nor U.S. Congressional Representatives can get confirmation that the children are even being kept track of by family.
Not surprisingly, one man, after learning that his child had been taken away, recently killed himself.
Jeff Sessions announced the new policy on April 6, 2018, but Trump now (1) claims, inaccurately, that it’s “the Democrats'” prior law (a complete lie) and (2) tweeted today that he won’t change the new policy unless Congress agrees to fund the wall and end political asylum and end “catch-and-release.”
Today, DHS revealed that almost 2,000 children have been taken from their parents in the last 6 weeks under the new policy. Children are housed in cages on concrete floors. Many of the children don’t have access to anyone who speaks their language. The staff has no training to deal with the children’s trauma, and a whistle-blower recently explained that both the staff and the children are traumatized, while the CEO of the private prison company has been paid $1 million.
Today, three medical organizations announced their unanimous denunciation of this new policy because separating young children from their parents and incarcerating them is permanently traumatic.
So here we are, friends. This is a violation of the Fifth Amendment guaranty of due process of law. It’s a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. It is a violation of international law. I would hope that any of those who continue to assist the implementation of this new policy are shunned by their congregations of faith until that changes. (Catholic bishops have already discussed assessing Canonical penalties to ICE agents ranging from refusing the sacrament of communion to excommunication.) I would hope that our courts ultimately order them to cease and desist, and if they fail to do so, that they are jailed for contempt of court. I hope they are ultimately prosecuted as international war criminals and they can never travel outside the U.S. In the meantime, every single one of them has violated his or her oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, and they deserve our horror and our contempt.
I’ve spent today in a funk, knowing that I needed to write this, and hating that fact. I have, despite every horrible thing up until the last nineteen months, been proud to be an American, choosing to concentrate on our lofty aspirations (equal protection, freedom of speech) rather than our tragic failings (slavery, segregation, white supremacy, McCarthyism.)
But this is simply unmitigated evil. And refusal to face it or to acknowledge it or to own it, is cowardice and a deliberate choice to enable evil. (Yes, friends, this is America, today. This is exactly who we are, until we change it.)
We are terrorizing families. We are traumatizing children. We are violating our principles and our laws to further a racist ideology of our misguided rulers. We are doing evil. We need to do everything in our power to stop that. Now.
Thanks to Jose Alaniz for the heads-up. I supplied the links and videos based on cues in the original text.