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Today, several leading military experts are challenging the Trump Administration and DHS Secretary Kelly — a retired Marine General — regarding the policy and practice excesses of ICE and CBP.
Yesterday, we highlighted an array of examples and reflections about why “unshackling” ICE and CBP is a recipe for cruelty and chaos across America. As Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, noted: “This is not the America we aspire to be. Both the policy and the implementation of the policy run counter to our self-proclaimed identity as a nation that welcomes immigrants and refugees.”
Today, in a must-read New York Times op-ed, Thomas Ricks, a leading U.S. military journalist and historian, details the array of abuses and excesses already on display by ICE and CBP and draws a parallel to the culture of impunity and the leadership vacuum that led to the horrors inside the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Ricks levies specific criticisms against DHS Secretary, General John Kelly.
Meanwhile, Nathan Fletcher, a U.S. Marines combat veteran, UC San Diego political science professor, and former member of the California Assembly, writes an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune condemning the Trump Administration’s decision to end deportation protections for families of deployed U.S. military personnel.
We excerpt the powerful opinion pieces from both military experts below:
By all accounts, Gen. John Kelly was a fine Marine. He served with Gen. James Mattis, now the secretary of defense, and was seen as being in the Mattis mold — a low-key, prudent, rigorous thinker. So it is with surprise that I see Mr. Kelly, in his new role as secretary of Homeland Security, presiding over a ham-handed crackdown on immigrants.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are operating aggressively under President Trump, feeling, as The New York Times reported, “newly emboldened” and “newly empowered.”
… And there definitely seems to be recklessness in the way Homeland Security is operating. In recent days, agents have taken a woman with a brain tumor out of a hospital, almost deported a distinguished French scholar flying into Houston to deliver a university lecture and scared the daylights out of an Australian children’s author who vowed after the experience never to visit the United States again.
This isn’t being done solely to foreigners. The son of the boxer Muhammad Ali, a citizen, was questioned upon arriving in Florida from Jamaica about his religion, which would seem to be a clear violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. And passengers on a domestic flight from San Francisco to New York were required to show their identity documents to customs officials because ICE thought a person with a deportation order might be on the plane.
For people who witnessed the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, such an aggressive stance is all too familiar … All this reminds me eerily of the words and actions by United States military officers who helped create the conditions that led to the abuses of Iraqi detainees at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, where a detainee abuse scandal in 2004 undercut the American effort in Iraq. I’m not suggesting that immigrants are being tortured in the horrific way that prisoners at Abu Ghraib were, but I do see parallels in the aggressive stance of Homeland Security agents and the message this carries abroad.
Even the language is similar. On Aug. 14, 2003, as the Iraqi insurgency was mushrooming, an Army officer in the Human Intelligence Effects Coordination Cell at American military headquarters in Iraq sent out a directive saying that ‘the gloves are coming off regarding these detainees.’ In case that wording left any doubts, he added, ‘We want these individuals broken.’
In response to orders like that, some Army units became far more aggressive. Like the Homeland Security operations, these Army missions often were conducted as night or dawn raids. Those hundreds of roundups wound up swamping the Abu Ghraib prison. Six weeks after the “gloves are coming off” memo, it held some 3,500 Iraqis. Four weeks later, that number had doubled.
…What puzzles me is that Secretary Kelly surely knows all this. In his first tour in Iraq, he was General Mattis’s deputy commander. General Mattis was eloquent in his public comments about Abu Ghraib. ‘When you lose the moral high ground, you lose it all,’ he said. Secretary Kelly would be wise to think back on his years as a Marine, and to keep his honor clean, as the “Marines’ Hymn” admonishes service members. If he doesn’t, the United States may through the actions of his department lose far more than it gains.
Imagine you are a member of the United States military deployed on the frontlines confronting ISIS or other terrorist threats. Suddenly you get a desperate phone call from home — Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested your family and they’re facing deportation. Think it can’t happen? Think again. Think Trump.
The Trump administration’s draconian and hastily drafted immigration orders rescind a key protection for military families so that now even military spouses and children can be rounded up and deported. This will weaken our armed forces. It will harm thousands of military families. And it’s wrong.
…When you deploy to war, your greatest worry is not yourself. You worry about your family left behind. The least we can promise those willing to give their life for our country is that their immediate family members can remain in that same country. By all accounts, the policy has worked well. Yet the Trump administration’s new immigration enforcement policy eviscerated ‘Parole in Place’ protections. It does not continue a policy that reflects a promise made to recruits who joined the United States military in the last four years.
…That may be good politics for the red states, but it’s terrible national security policy for the United States, and a slap in the face to thousands of deployed troops with immigrant roots. We cannot allow our troops to be consumed with fear and anxiety about their families while deployed on the front lines. We cannot indiscriminately endanger the family members of the citizens who sacrifice the most for our nation.
…The Trump administration must immediately and explicitly clarify that the “Parole in Place” program for military families remains the law of the land. If Trump can turn out sweeping executive orders in a matter of days, surely he can fix this terrible mistake in a matter of minutes.