As the Trump regime lurches from denial to defiance to pouting, a human rights tragedy unfoldsby Diane Roberts / June 19, 2018 / Leave a comment
United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. Photo: Chris Kleponis/DPA/PA Images The United States of America, which once presumed to lecture other nations on human rights, is pulling children from their mothers’ arms, dragging toddlers screaming away from their fathers, and locking them up in old warehouses, separated from their parents. The stories are heartbreaking: a woman from Honduras breast feeding her baby in an immigrant processing centre when security officers wrested the child away, handcuffing the mother when she resisted; a six year-old Salvadoran girl who’d memorised her aunt’s phone number begging authorities to call; a tiny boy who’d stopped speaking, curled up in a corner clutching a photocopy of his mother’s identification card. Some Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have told the adults that their children were being taken off for baths. When the children didn’t come back, ICE informed their distraught parents, “You won’t be seeing your child again.” Immigration officials insist the children have everything they could possibly need: clean facilities, food, toys, beds, even snacks! Everything but their mothers and fathers. You can hear the children crying, calling for Mamíand Papa, in a recording obtained by ProPublica, a not-for-profit journalism organisation. A border control officer is heard joking, “Well, we have an orchestra here—what’s missing is a conductor.” The Trump regime lurches from denial to defiance to epic pouting. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen first denied that children were taken from their parents, tweeting on 17thJune “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” The veracity of this claim rivals that of former White House spokesman Sean Spicer’s, “This is the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration. Period.” When she realised no one believed her, Nielsen then claimed that most of the detained children weren’t, in fact, separated from their parents, they arrived alone—intrepid toddlers traversing the length of Mexico all by themselves. When reporters pressed her on this obvious nonsense, she insisted that, even though what’s clearly happening isn’t really happening, if it werehappening, she’d like to point out, the detention facilities are actually really nice. She’d seen them herself: they had “televisions and video games.” Then she got huffy: “We will not apologise for doing our job.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insists how the Trump regime handles immigrant children is “very Biblical.” Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, author of the “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the US border without the proper paperwork as if they’re all ruthless gang members, sex traffickers or jihadis instead of terrified people trying to survive, cites Paul’s “Epistle to the Romans,” chapter 13, as justification: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” This particular bit of the Bible was also used in the past to justify slavery. Both slave owners and Sessions left out Paul’s punchline: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” As for Donald Trump, he blames the Democrats—the Democrats who do not control a single branch of government. Trump tweeted “It is the Democrats (sic) fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder (sic) Security and Crime. Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration.” Trump and his minions claim they’re just following pre-existing law. This is not true. There’s no law requiring children to be removed from their parents if they cross the border illegally. It’s merely a policy. His policy. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama did not interpret immigration regulations this way. Trump claims these immigrants are dangerous. That’s largely nonsense. Most of these people, coming from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, are running for their lives. They are asylum-seekers. It’s true in the most technical sense that asylum-seekers should apply at an official “port of entry,” a designated border crossing. But too often, the smugglers refugees pay to get them from Central America to the United States border dump their charges miles from any official checkpoint. Nogales in Arizona, and El Paso in Texas are so understaffed and oversubscribed, immigrants must wait up to two weeks with no place to stay and few services. Being in the US without proper documentation is not a felony. It’s a civil infraction. Trump wants a border wall. He wants to curtail legal immigration. The children are mere bargaining chips in his battle against Congress. He pitched a hissy fit at a press conference on 18thJune, barking that border-crossers “could be murderers and thieves and so much else.” “So much else” like parents frightened for their lives and the lives of their children? He declared the US “will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility.” But, thanks to Trump’s paranoia and racism, that’s precisely what the US has become. We are warehousing human beings, 2,000+ children, all over the nation, some in tent cities (the government calls them “soft-sided structures”), some with chain-link dividers like kennels. Homeland Security prefers that you not call them “cages.” America has a long and unlovely history of imprisoning people because they might be “enemies,” or they might cling to a culture we disapprove of, or they are mere property—slaves. Once Americans liked to say that we welcomed the immigrant, the wretched of the earth. We offered hope, opportunity. Now a country which used to tout its “family values” tears families apart. We no longer give a damn about the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The lamp beside the golden door has gone dark.