It’s becoming clear that the Trump administration is gearing up to re-start family separations – a morally depraved policy choice that doubles as a toxic political choice for Republicans up and down the ballot.
As a Washington Post editorial, “Undeterred by the last uproar, Trump is again considering family separation” explains:
“Apparently undeterred by the uproar it triggered by separating migrant children from their families two years ago, the Trump administration is considering whether to push for more of the same … the president’s unbridled animus toward mainly brown-skinned migrants may result in an episode of cruelty that would shock the civilized world.
The administration’s latest threat to break up families arises from a federal court order last month by U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee … The judge’s jurisdiction in the long-running case does not cover detained adults, which afforded an opening to the administration to present migrant parents with a perverse choice: give up their children to sponsors, or remain with their children inside facilities where the pandemic is tightening its grip. In a separate lawsuit brought by parents, the administration says that if forced to release children, it may not free their parents with them.
…The United States is a fundamentally compassionate and decent country. Compassion and decency compel a clear path forward: releasing parents and children together from ICE custody. Sadly, very little in this administration’s makeup suggests it will do the right thing.”
Judge Gee’s ruling noted that the family detention facilities were “on fire” due to COVID and the horrifying new details of the spread inside an ICE detention facility in Arizona remind us what’s at stake. But despite the urgent imperatives to save lives and keep families together, the Trump administration is making clear it has no plans to release families (see a Post reported piece by Spencer Hsu for more).
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:
Instead of replaying the systematic separation of children from their parents – one of the darkest chapters of this or any other presidency – it’s time for the Trump administration to allow all the families held in detention to be released into proven alternatives that are effective, humane and that keep families together.
Of course, we know they are gearing up to do just the opposite, to their everlasting shame. Clearly, their bottomless cruelty toward immigrants and asylum-seekers knows no limits. Yet we also know that family separation and the visceral images of ripping kids from their parents managed to shock America’s conscience once and should again. Family separations were among the most politically unpopular things this administration has done, as polling and electoral analyses make clear.
Vulnerable Republicans up and down the ballot may just have to run this November on a record of defending and enabling a President whose historic mishandling of a crisis caused tens of thousands of preventable deaths and whose cruelty presided over multiple policies designed to rip vulnerable kids from their parents’ arms. Quite a record to run on.
Reminders why family separation is politically toxic for Republicans
- Overwhelming opposition to family separations and high intensity on issue in “Nationscape Project” massive sample polling. In December 2019, The Upshot in the New York Times showcased findings from the Democracy Fund and UCLA’s “Nationscape Project” — a massive-sample of opinions from 110,000 people nationwide. The polling found that the single top-ranked priority issue among Democrats of more than 50 issues tested was “don’t separate immigrant children at southern border,” and that 92% of Democrats opposed this policy. Among Independents, it ranked as the second-most important issue for independents and 84% of independents opposed family separation. Meanwhile, 54% of Republicans opposed family separations as well. From a 2018 FiveThirtyEight polling summary: a collection of polls “found that about two-thirds of the American public oppose the policy…in the partisan era in which we live, it’s noteworthy that Trump’s policy has only about half of Republicans on board.”
- Political analysts and internal GOP polling: family separation hurt Republicans in 2018 midterms, especially among suburban women. For example, in September 2018, the Associated Press’s Julie Pace referenced an “internal GOP poll obtained by The Associated Press,” which found that “Trump’s approval rating among independents in congressional battleground districts dropped 10 points between June and August. A GOP official who oversaw the survey attributed the drop to negative views of Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the White House’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.” In July 2018, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar wrote that the “family separation border policy badly hurt Rs with suburban women, some of whom voted for Trump in ‘16.” He added that “in the roller-coaster ride that is the Trump presidency, this has been a disastrous summer for Republicans. The backlash against his administration’s draconian family-separation policy cost the party support among moderate suburbanites.”