Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Border Separation Debacle Unpacked

I've been silent for a long time because, quite frankly, there's been entirely too much nonsense to keep up with from this administration on a daily basis.  Every single day a new unforced error here, a new lie there.  It's exhausting.  Meanwhile the left and right can't even agree on what day it is and Congress is about as functional as the Gallagher family from Shameless. I used to enjoy movies like Idiocracy because they were far fetched fiction...now it seems like it could be a legit documentary.  My point is, there doesn't seem to be any bottom to how low this President and his administration of "the best people" will sink, and this past week has held true to that theory.

By now you've seen or heard of the videos of thousands of children, some of them infants less than a year old, being stripped away from mothers and fathers who encounter border patrol agents along the US-Mexican border.   Many of these families are seeking asylum from harsh conditions which means that, as a matter of law, they are not crossing the border illegally because US asylum laws allow them to enter the country while their asylum application is being determined.  Predictably, the Trump administration, aided by Fox News and right-wing media, went to work attempting to spin their own version of reality by blaming the Democrats (who are not in power in any of the 3 branches of the federal government) for this new enforcement policy as if a new law had just been passed. 

I'm a lawyer so the first thing I did out of habit was to look to see if any new immigration law had been passed by Congress recently that would require border patrol agents to separate immigrant children from their parents. 

Nope.  No new law. 


When it comes to how the border patrol agents are supposed to handle immigrant children at the border, the same old law that's been on the books for 10 years that was signed into law by President Bush in 2008 is the same law that governs on this topic today.  And say what you will about President Bush, but he wasn't separating immigrant children from their parents.  And neither did President Obama during the years he was in office from 2009 until 2017.  And neither did President Trump for the entire first year he was in office . . . until this year.

So what changed?

On April 6, 2018, the Trump administration changed the Executive Branch's immigration policy from what it had been for the past 10 years to a new policy that separates parents and children.  Let me repeat that: this is a NEW policy.  This policy did not exist under Obama. It did not exist under Bush.  It did not exist under Clinton. It did not exist under Reagan. Prior administrations detained migrant families, but didn’t have a policy of forcibly separating parents from their children unless the adults were found to be unfit as parents, which was rare. 

As I mentioned, this new policy didn't exist until 2 months ago.  Indeed, you might recall Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing this new policy in early May when he flat out said

"If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law."

It is not a new law passed by Congress; it is a new policy made up by the Executive Branch on how it is going to choose to enforce the laws that are already on the books.  This decision was the brainchild of John Kelly and Stephen Miller to serve as a deterrent for undocumented immigration.  President Trump approved it as a show of force, thinking that it would send a clear signal to the world and, more importantly, to his base, that he is tough on illegal immigration.  But just like the "non-Muslim" Muslim ban, Trump and friends didn't think this one all the way through. 

You see, when you don't value the lives of minorities, as is the case here, then you don't think about any potential blow back from treating them like they're less than human.  After all, they're minorities.  Black and Brown folks who, although "very fine people," are a burden that has been tolerated for too long by the decent White God-fearing law-abiding do-gooders of this now "great again" land.  So the Trump administration, the geniuses that they are, convinced themselves in their little echo chamber that nobody would care if dirty Mexican kids are taken away from their dirty Mexican parents who shouldn't even be here in the first place.  Besides, the kidnapped children are basically living in luxury camps compared to where they're from, right?

There was just one problem: Americans, as it turns out, have a soft spot for children.  Yes, even Mexican children.

In short, the administration didn't bank on the fact that Mexican lives matter. 

Within days after an outpouring of criticism from the American public, Trump went from (i) acting like this was some kind of new law that the Democratic minority had somehow just recently passed through Congress through some form of magic apparently; to (ii) admitting that it's not a new law but arguing that, nevertheless, he as President is powerless to change this new policy; to (iii) admitting that he actually does have the power to change this new policy; and then ultimately to (iv) signing an Executive Order to change his new policy back to the old policy (sort of).

For now, the takeaway is this: there are a million and one possible solutions to fixing America's immigration system, but separating children from their parents is not one of them. 

To tie all of this into a much broader point, we once again see that the Trump cycle of incompetence continues to repeat itself. The pattern goes something like this: Trump has no idea what he's doing which leads to him doing something stupid; his followers, who are allergic to facts, attempt to convince America that what we all saw and heard with our own eyes and ears didn't actually happen; then Trump immediately throws his followers under the bus by admitting that it actually did happen; and then it's on to the next blunder.  Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

America, please do your duty this year in the midterms and again in 2020 and vote this clown, and anybody who follows him, out of office.



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