Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at 7:51 AM

Separating Migrant Children from Their Parents. This Is America … Too!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Occasionally in the course of human events, man’s inhumanity to man provokes commentaries that inflame passions more than shed light. This is one of those occasions. Therefore, I hope what follows sheds light more than inflames passions.

Since early May, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the Southern U.S. border, according to the Department of Homeland Security, as part of a new immigration strategy by the Trump administration that has prompted widespread outcry. …

In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered prosecutors along the border to ‘adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy,’ for illegal border crossings. That included prosecuting parents traveling with their children as well as people who subsequently attempted to request asylum.

(NPR, June 19, 2018)

No doubt you’ve heard all the critics condemning this policy, which includes separating children so young, the Trump administration is detaining them at secret locations in “tender age shelters.” It is noteworthy that Trump’s own wife Melania is leading the chorus, which includes every former first lady, in denouncing this policy as cruel and inhumane, and eerily reminiscent of the way the Nazis treated the Jews.

They are right, of course. I mean, just imagine the despairing terror of parents fleeing their homes and braving an often long and treacherous journey to the US border, all to protect their children, only to have the US government throw them in prison and confiscate their children like contraband, leaving parents and children alike with no idea when or if they will ever see each other again. This is America?!

Not to mention 100 years of American mercantile policies that contributed to chronic political corruption and economic malaise, which have imposed lives of quiet desperation upon generations of Central Americans. Then, of course, there’s this more recent phenomenon, which not only casts blame on the United States for this migration crisis, but also highlights the hypocrisy inherent in it now trying to wall off the problems Americans themselves are (still) causing:

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a group of Latin American leaders Friday that the United States’ insatiable demand for illegal drugs has fueled the violence in Central America that’s driving migrants to the United States.

Kelly blamed the United States’ doing ‘almost nothing’ about drug demand and he described the networks that serve that demand as a source of many of the region’s economic and security problems.

(McClatchy News, May 5, 2017)

That, of course, is the same John Kelly — now serving as chief of staff — who is presiding over the implementation of Trump’s callous, Pontius-Pilate like immigration policies.

Anyway, unlike fellow progressives, I readily concede that the tide of immigrants fleeing violence and privation south of the border is untenable. But I also recognize that the categorical imperative to flee is existential, so much so that some parents are giving their life savings to smugglers (a.k.a. coyotes) to get their children to that border for a life-saving chance to … crossover.

I am also mindful that those fleeing Central and South America are no different from those who fled Cuba and Haiti over the years. In fact, the US government would be hard-pressed to explain why Hispanics from Cuba were welcomed for decades under its “wet foot, dry foot” policy, but Hispanics from Central and South America never were. And don’t get me started on the racism inherent in never allowing blacks from Haiti or any other country to enter under this policy.

I have commented on the tangled web of immigration policies America has weaved in such commentaries as “Compassion Fatigue for Haitian Migrants,” July 31, 2009, and “Obama Ends Discriminatory ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Cuba Policy,” January 13, 2017.  But I digress …

Americans – of every political stripe – are venting moral outrage over the sound of children in US detention centers (a.k.a. internment camps) crying for their parents. Yet these same Americans seem blithely oblivious to the fact that these wailing cries pale in comparison to the sound of children left behind in those strife-ridden countries crying for food – when they’re not crying for a dead parent, sibling, or relative.

Meanwhile, President Trump is a lying, blame-shifting ogre in so many respects, it’s easy to overlook that President Obama was not exactly blameless. Granted, he never ordered children to be ripped from the arms of their mothers. But, in targeting illegal immigrants with criminal records, he deported so many fathers (which tore many families apart) that immigrant-rights activists ended up denouncing him as the “deporter in chief.”

I hasten to clarify that Trump banning Muslims and calling Caribbean and African countries “shitholes” are just two of the many notorious ways he is uniquely worthy of condemnation in this context.

That said , the only way to truly stem this tide is to marshal American resources (political, financial, and even military) to change conditions on the ground that are causing people to flee for their lives.

Administration officials insist that this separation policy is only a stop-gap measure until America can build Trump’s big, beautiful wall as the real deterrent. Further, that this deterrent is necessary because, the way immigrants are rushing to the southern border, you’d think their countries were like buildings on fire.

Unfortunately, they are so blinded by their own anti-immigrant bias, they can’t see that the best way to deal with a neighbor’s house on fire is not to build a wall around your house to keep that fleeing neighbor out; rather it’s to help that neighbor put out the fire, lest it engulfs the entire neighborhood.

(I argued the same for European countries dealing with the sequent toil of Arab (Syrian) and African migrants in such commentaries as “European Migration Crisis: Sowing Seeds of Unintended but All Too Foreseeable Consequences,” September 7, 2015. And I crystallized the similar migration challenges the US and EU face in “On Second Thought, Keep Your…Huddled Masses Yearning to Be Free,” July 7, 2014.)

In any event, it would be refreshing to have a US government offering direct assistance to help regional governments combat indigenous violence and provide basic services for their people, instead of trying to overthrow them. As part of this assistance, it could help those governments build, protect, and sustain safe havens within their respective borders, as well as launch public information programs to discourage people from thinking the reason America is a “Shining City on a Hill” is that its streets are paved with gold (you know, all that glitters is not…).

That would clearly be a more beneficial and humane use of taxpayer dollars than this moondoggle:

President Trump officially directed the Pentagon to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military in space on Monday. Speaking at a National Space Council meeting at the White House, Mr. Trump called for a ‘space force’ to ensure American dominance on the high frontier.

(CBS News, June 18 2018)

Ultimately, though, the only way to truly fix America’s inherently flawed immigration system is to kick Trump and his enablers in the “cult-like” Republican Party out of office. Because only Democrats seem committed to comprehensive immigration reform. This would include not only a guest-worker program but also incentives for illegal immigrants now living in the shadows to assimilate, assimilate, assimilate!

More to the point, such reform would practically end any need to cross the border illegally.

Incidentally, only the congenitally ass-backward Trump would think that withholding aid from these poor countries – as he is threatening to do – would stop what he says are illegal immigrants “infest[ing] our country.”

As indicated above, I have written too many commentaries on America’s perennial immigration crisis to count, including “US Declares ‘Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy … Yeah, Right!” October 20, 2005, “New Immigration Laws Promise Comfort to Fools in Washington and Paris,” December 2, 2005, “Bush’s Presidential Address on Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Hate the Messenger; Don’t Hate the Message,” May 16, 2006, and “DACA: Ain’t No Wall High Enough to Keep ‘Them’ from Getting to US,” September 16, 2017.

But I can think of no better way to end this one than to echo what President Obama famously said: Don’t get mad, vote! Or, to paraphrase what President Bush (George W.) famously tried to say: Elect Trump once, shame on him. Elect Trump twice, shame on you!

Related commentaries:
Wet foot, dry foot
Compassion fatigue for Haitian
Shithole countries
original “zero-tolerance” immigration policy
New immigration laws offer comfort to fools
Bush comprehensive immigration reform
DACA ain’t no wall high enough
banning Muslims
Europe’s migration crisis
On second thought, keep huddled masses

* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 10:21 p.m.

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