“We are not out of the woods, even if [Trump] says vaguely and unconvincingly that ‘we are not looking to do that’ right now.” — Douglas Rivlin
Yesterday, President Trump said of reports of re-instituting his cruel border family separation policy, “We’re not looking to do that,” before noting, “Once you don’t have it, that’s why you see many more people coming. They’re coming like it’s a picnic, because let’s go to Disneyland.” The second part of the quote seems like an endorsement for moving in that policy direction rather than an explanation for why not.
It is important to note that families are still being separated — and not just at the border, but throughout our immigration incarceration and deportation system. And the Trump administration still claims it could take years to reunite families they have already broken up.
Trump’s assertion that “we’re not looking to do that” is not a blanket ruling-out of family separations. It misses the fact that instead of simply re-instituting the policy in its exact previous form, the White House is supposedly considering a slight variation on the same cruel approach – the so-called “binary choice” option. Under this policy, according to the New York Times, “migrant parents would be given a choice of whether to voluntarily allow their children to be separated from them, or to waive their child’s humanitarian protections so the family can be detained together, indefinitely, in jail-like conditions.” Not only would this practice be inhumane, under the circumstances, immigration advocates have stated that it would likely be found illegal by courts given the questionable nature of the “voluntary” decision – a Sophie’s Choice (for a fuller explanation, see this DHS Watch overview on the policies being floated and their implications).
Douglas Rivlin, Communications Director of America’s Voice said: “Trump still believes that being inordinately cruel to children and families seeking asylum is his political strategy for victory in 2020 and that it will motivate his base to cheer for him, regardless of the damage to the individuals involved, the Republican Party or to our nation’s moral fabric. The more Trump can cause chaos and provoke strong reactions from Democrats or progressives, the more Trump will be pushed by Miller to adopt controversial and counterproductive policies. Maintaining a sense of crisis and chaos is Trump’s key electoral strategy, so we are not out of the woods, even if he says vaguely and unconvincingly that ‘we are not looking to do that’ right now.”
A front-page Washington Post story, “Twelve Days of Chaos, Inside the Trump White House’s Growing Panic to Contain the Border Crisis” drives home several key points about the mindset and motivations of the Trump White House. Namely, that President Trump and lead nativist advisor Stephen Miller are flailing and furious about the administration’s continued failures on their signature hardline issue. Scared about the 2020 implications of their failures, they are now set to inject more chaos and inhumanity by pushing even more hardline policies that are doomed to fail. As the Post assesses, Trump views the situation as an “existential political crisis ahead of his 2020 reelection bid over the prospect of failure on his top domestic priority.”
Douglas Rivlin continued: “With Trump’s motivations in mind, and having watched Trump closely on immigration over the past four years, color us skeptical about headlines reporting that Trump is backing away from re-instituting family separation policies. While taking anything Trump says at face value can be an exercise in futility, a close read of Trump’s words, in fact, leads to a potential different conclusion about what they may be planning.”