It’s been nine weeks since U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw gave the government a deadline for reuniting the more than 2,500 children who were taken from parents apprehended while crossing the border.
This isn’t over. What passes for compliance in the eyes of the court and the chattering class on cable news doesn’t match reality for hundreds of parents and children.
As the deadline came and went dozens of children and their parents engaged in non-violent civil disobedience at the U.S. Capitol proclaiming I AM A CHILD. They sang lullabies and drew pictures of their families to remind elected leaders that all children are human beings who belong with their families.
A statement from protest leaders:
Where the Administration has failed, Americans across the country are filling the gap with an outpouring of compassion for these children, working tirelessly and opening up their own wallets to help bring families back together, including with a multi-million dollar “Flights for Families” effort to speed reunifications.
“This devastation is clear and apparent mass child abuse, as well as a basic human rights violation,” said Margo Simon, a doctor from New York and mother of a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. “As a medical and mental health professional, I know that this kind of abusive separation can have drastic consequences on children’s psychological wellbeing for the rest of their lives. As a citizen of the USA, I think it is our civil and moral responsibility to stand up to tyranny that frighteningly resembles events leading up to some of the gravest travesties in modern world history. And as a parent, I teach our children the opposite– love, compassion, justice, standing up for the marginalized, speaking up for those whose voices have been taken away, making the world a better place for all.”
The protest in Washington was coordinated with the opening of an exhibit at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
The #IAmAChild exhibition is designed to shine a light on the inhumane practice of separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexican border. It pays homage to “I AM A MAN”, the slogan striking AFSCME sanitation workers adopted in 1968 to shine a light on their degrading working conditions and to assert their humanity, in a call for the recognition of human rights of all children regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or immigration status.
The children, their parents, and the Families Belong Together coalition event demanded the Trump Administration and Congress:
- Permanently end family separation and immediately reunite children with their parents, including closing the “eligibility” loophole that allows the Trump Administration to unilaterally decide which children will never see their parents again with zero transparency.
- Provide families with the services they need for the reunification process, including travel expenses and legal representation, as well as any counseling and support they require to deal with the trauma inflicted on them by our own government.
- End family incarceration and provide children and families with due process, not indefinite imprisonment that inflicts lasting emotional harm on children.
- End ‘Zero Humanity’ and reverse the Republican policy that created this crisis by criminally prosecuting families for seeking safety and a better life.
- Hold accountable and investigate anyone who has profited politically or financially from the suffering of children, including Administration officials and the Republican Congress.
More than 900 migrant families won’t be reunited. The government has its excuses and those reasons have been dutifully reported in news stories.
The Trump administration has judged them ineligible for reunification or “not yet known to be eligible,” including 463 parents no longer in the county. Claims about criminal records are another oft-cited excuse worthy of further examination, given that arrests for DUI are now considered legal grounds for deportation.
The kudos being given by some pundits for the government’s efforts with these families thus far needs to be tempered with the understanding of just how low the bar has been set for declaring victory.
From the New York Times:
“The only deadline they are meeting is the one they have set for themselves,” said Lee Gelernt, lead counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the federal lawsuit challenging the family separations. “The government should not be getting applause for cleaning up their own mess, but moreover, they’re still not meeting the deadline for all the families.”
Still, it appeared that the judge handling the case, Dana M. Sabrow of the Federal District Court in San Diego, was inclined to allow the government some leeway in complying with his order to rapidly bring separated families back together.
Peel back those excuses and the ugliness of the process along with its mean-spirited and racist origins is plain to see. After all, the refusal of a core group of politicians to create workable and realistic immigration policy is based on the premise of certain types of people –primarily identifiable by their racial origins– not being suitable.
Consider the most recent developments in this ugly chapter of US history:
*Parents at the border who couldn’t read English were forced to sign forms relinquishing their rights to be reunited with their children.
*Despite claims by the Department of Homeland Security about some parents voluntarily leaving children behind. as many as three-quarters of the deported parents may not have consented to giving up their sons and daughters.
“All of these adults who left without their kids left based on a decision to leave their children,” Nielsen said July 19 at a national security forum. “The parents always have the choice to take the children with them,” Nielsen repeated to Fox News on Tuesday. “These are parents who have made the decision not to bring the children with them.”
“If any parent has been deported … without their child,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said July 5, “that likely would be a scenario where the parent had actually asked that the child remain.”
But “we don’t see it in the documentation,” the administration official said. As many as 350 parents may have departed the U.S. without being given the option to take their children with them, the official said Wednesday. That represents three-quarters of the 463 parents who are no longer in the U.S., according to a related court filing, although that number is “under review,” according to the DOJ.
*Government prosecutors have been deliberately omitting whether people charged with entering the country have asked for asylum, a key bit of information judges are supposed to have when determining whether the arrest was merited and how the case should proceed.
From Voice of San Diego:
Defense attorneys have started noticing that something is missing from the arrest reports and complaints involving some of their clients charged with illegally entering the country.
Nowhere in those documents does it note when defendants have asked for asylum.
Information about whether someone is seeking asylum in the United States could have a fundamental impact on the hundreds of cases in which people are being prosecuted for entering the country illegally under Attorney Jeff Sessions’ zero tolerance policy. And it’s unclear whether it’s even legal for the government to prosecute asylum-seekers.
*There are 37 children whose parents have not yet been identified.
Katharine B., a 17-year-old from El Salvador, describes an unattended 2-year-old baby named Bethany in her “cage.” “No one was helping her. The guards treat her like any other older kid. They call her name and expect her to get in line.” https://t.co/Grn3Tnu3md
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) July 26, 2018
Other developments related to the government’s policies on immigration are equally disturbing
* The Justice Department has informed U.S. Attorney’s offices around the country that the term “illegal aliens” rather than “undocumented” should be used in press releases and public statements.
Although the term “illegal alien” does appear infrequently United States Code and in U.S. law, it is not used as a definition in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the nation’s main immigration law. More to the point, the term is used as shorthand by nativists and racists. Given the ideological orientations of the current leadership in Washington, it’s hard not to believe this was a not-so-subtle effort to further dehumanize immigrants.
* The Republican leadership in Congress has now walked back a promise to hold a vote on a new guest-worker program for farmers before the August recess. Rank and file GOP Congressman have split on the issue, in part because California Farm Bureau’s Josh Rolph is lobbying against any legislation mandating E-Verify, calling it a “socialist” idea.
* Despite all the administration’s rhetoric about Zero Tolerance serving as a deterrent to stem the flow of migrants from Central America and other locales, evidence suggests they’re simply wrong.
The problem is that it didn’t work. They didn’t present any data at the time to suggest it would work. And a new analysis from political scientist Tom K. Wong of UC San Diego (published by the progressive Center for American Progress think tank) shows the administration probably should have known it wouldn’t work.
Wong’s analysis shows that the past two attempted crackdowns on families crossing the border illegally — one under President Obama in summer 2014, and one under President Trump in summer 2017 — didn’t have a measurable effect on apprehensions at the border. The finding suggests that Central American families aren’t abandoning their home countries to take advantage of supposedly lax US immigration policy — they’re choosing between a homeland where they worry their family has no chance at survival and the US, where they just might.
More families have been crossing into the US illegally each year — despite previous detention and separation attempts.
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