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“Shock and Awe” Against Immigrant Families: More Boundless Cruelty and More Failed Deterrence-Only Policy

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A Washington Post story posted last night, “Before Trump’s purge at DHS, top officials challenged plan for mass family arrests,” highlights that the Trump White House, led by Stephen Miller, is exploring a military style “shock and awe” approach targeted against immigrant families in American cities to dissuade desperate Central American families from seeking refuge in the U.S. Essentially, the same Trump team that embraced, implemented, and defended family separation efforts at the border – one of the darkest chapters in modern American history – is enthusiastically exploring injecting the same boundless cruel, inhumane and failed approach throughout American communities and neighborhoods.

As Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey write for the Post:

The ultimate purpose, the officials said, was a show of force to send the message that the United States was going to get tough by swiftly moving to detain and deport recent immigrants — including families with children. The sprawling operation included an effort to fast-track immigration court cases, allowing the government to obtain deportation orders against those who did not show for their hearings — officials said 90 percent of those targeted were found deportable in their absence. The subsequent arrests would have required coordinated raids against parents with children in their homes and neighborhoods.

… ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations branch had an initial target list of 2,500 adults and children, but the plan, which remains under consideration, was viewed as a first step toward arresting as many as 10,000 migrants” (many of whom are pursuing asylum claims).

Despite voiced “concerns about how agents would handle families with children who are U.S. citizens and a lack of bed space to keep the families in detention, among other things,” Stephen Miller wanted to proceed – and helped oust DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and ICE leader Ronald Vitiello for raising objections. Lest anyone try and portray the ousted Nielsen and Vitiello as heroes of the story driven by noble impulses, the Post story notes:

the objections Vitiello and Nielsen raised regarding the targeted ‘at large’ arrests were mostly operational and logistical and not as a result of ethical concerns … Vitiello urged ICE agents to conduct more surveillance work, in particular to ensure that children would not be separated from their families in the blitz — such as in instances when a child might be at school or at a friend’s house when their parents were taken away. Their objections reflected a deeper concern that the White House was pushing a shock-and-awe operation designed for show, but lacking in deliberative planning and research.

The following is a statement from Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

It is deeply alarming that the Trump administration is still considering going ahead with a plan to conduct mass family raids in 10 cities, rounding up and deporting thousands of people, and separating families that are a key part of communities across our country. Unfortunately, it seems that some of the darkest days in the Trump era may still be ahead of us.

The Trump administration’s immigration and border policies are depraved and failing, and their motivations are cynical and political. It’s a dangerous combination. The latest revelations underscore the boundless cruelty of Stephen Miller and fellow Trump hardliners and drive home a consistent theme of this White House – when in doubt, scapegoat the most vulnerable at all costs, and use scare-tactics to cause chaos and panic among immigrant communities, all in service of the fearmongering and divisiveness that are Trump’s brand.

This appalling idea is yet another example of Trump and Miller focusing on harsh deterrence-only policies that have only made the situation worse, and that won’t work to solve the humanitarian and refugee challenge of Central Americans fleeing the region. Cruelty won’t stop and deter desperate parents from fleeing the violence and instability in Central America.

In the interim, as Trump and Miller scheme on how to further terrorize immigrants in order to bolster Trump’s strong man image ahead of his 2020 re-election effort, expect more cruel, chaotic, and doomed-to-fail deterrence-only ideas to be implemented, no matter the damage to America’s values and interests.