Every day brings more reminders about the centrality and disturbing nature of President Trump’s anti-immigrant worldview. As the Washington Post reports:
The night before Trump delivered his first speech to Congress in February 2017, he huddled with Jared Kushner and Miller in the Oval Office to talk immigration … Trump reminded them the crowds loved his rhetoric on immigrants along the campaign trail. Acting as if he was at a rally, he then read aloud a few made up Hispanic names and described potential crimes they could have committed, like rape or murder. Then, he said, the crowds would roar when the criminals were thrown out of the country — as they did when he highlighted crimes by illegal immigrants at his rallies, according to a person present for the exchange and another briefed on it later. Miller and Kushner laughed.
Increasingly, we are seeing the cruel effects of this callous cynicism and bigotry translated into radical policy and practice. Among the most horrifying developments in the Trump administration’s ongoing war on immigrants are these two related storylines:
1. Our government, in our name and with our taxpayer dollars, is purposefully ripping children, including infants and toddlers, from their parents in a cruel push to deter migrants from seeking safety in the United States.
2. Our government, in our name and with our taxpayer dollars, has separated and then lost track of hundreds of these children. We are, quite literally, ripping kids from parents and then losing track of them.
A series of observers are reporting on these related developments and weighing in to condemn what is already a dark chapter in American history. Below are key excerpts:
A story in the Arizona Daily Star details the horrors of the new family separation deterrence policy being put in practice – including the chilling detail that moms losing their children are being required to wear a yellow bracelet signifying their status as part of Operation Streamline:
Alma Jacinto covered her eyes with her hands as tears streamed down her cheeks.
The 36-year-old from Guatemala was led out of the federal courtroom without an answer to the question that brought her to tears: When would she see her boys again?
Jacinto wore a yellow bracelet on her left wrist, which defense lawyers said identifies parents who are arrested with their children and prosecuted in Operation Streamline, a fast-track program for illegal border crossers. Moments earlier, her public defender asked the magistrate judge when Jacinto would be reunited with her sons, ages 8 and 11. There was no clear answer for Jacinto, who was sentenced to time served on an illegal-entry charge after crossing the border with her sons near Lukeville on May 14.
…On Thursday, Efrain Chun Carlos, also from Guatemala, received more information than Jacinto when he asked Magistrate Judge Lynnette C. Kimmins about his child during Streamline proceedings. “I only wanted to ask about the whereabouts of my child in this country,” Chun said. Kimmins responded she didn’t know where his child was and suggested he ask officials at the facility where he will be detained.
Christopher Lewis, the federal prosecutor at the hearing, told Kimmins that children from countries that are not contiguous to the United States will be placed in foster care with the Office of Refugee Resettlement. “When they will be reunited, I cannot say because that’s an immigration matter,” Lewis said.
…Lopez said he did not know how many prosecutions of parents with children had occurred so far. The Arizona Daily Star found nine Streamline cases last week in which defendants asked the judge about their minor children.
E.J. Montini focuses his Arizona Republic column on the chilling fact that, “The Feds Lost –Yes, Lost – 1,475 Migrant Children”:
The Trump administration recently announced a new, get-tough policy that will separate parents from their children if the family is caught crossing the border illegally. It was a big news story. So big it overshadowed the fact that the federal government has lost – yes, lost – 1,475 migrant children in its custody.
…That is what happened to 1,475 minors swept up at the border and taken into custody by the federal government. Gone. The Office of Refugee Resettlement reported at the end of 2017 that of the 7,000-plus children placed with sponsored individuals, the agency did not know where 1,475 of them were.
…When pressed about safety concerns [DHS Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen said, “I just want to say, I couldn’t agree with your concerns more, period. We owe more to these children to protect them. So I’m saying I agree, we’ve taken steps and we will continue to strengthen what our partners do to protect these children.”
There are 1,475 reasons not to be reassured by the secretary’s promise.
The Los Angeles Times reports on how federal Judge Robert Brack, who has sentenced more immigration violators than any other colleague, is speaking out about the injustice he witnesses every day in his courtroom:
Day in, day out, immigrants shuffle into Judge Robert Brack’s courtroom, shackled at the wrist and ankle, to be sentenced for the crime of crossing the border. The judge hands down sentences with a heavy heart. Since he joined the federal bench in 2003, Brack has sentenced some 15,000 defendants, the vast majority of them immigrants with little or no criminal record.
“See, I have presided over a process that destroys families for a long time, and I am weary of it,” said Brack one day in his chambers in Las Cruces. “And I think we as a country are better than this.”
…In the five years through 2017, Brack ranked first among 680 judges nationwide for his caseload, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which tracks court data. He sentenced 6,858 offenders — 5,823 of them for felony immigration violations. It’s a dubious honor for a man who is a devout Catholic and makes plain his moral dilemma in public hearings. He takes seriously his oath to uphold the laws of the United States. But he is a cog in a system he believes is unjust.
…And now, after so many grueling years and thousands more immigration cases, Brack has decided enough is enough. He takes “senior status” in July, effectively stepping aside to serve part time. President Trump will name his replacement.
And syndicated columnist Connie Schultz captures the horrors of what is happening – and reflects on why families are seeking refuge in the first place: “You, Too, Would Do This to Save the Life of Your Child”:
The New York Times’ Caitlin Dickerson reported last month that “more than 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October, including more than 100 children under the age of 4.”
Say that out loud: more than 100 children under the age of 4. Think of them as your own, if that’s the only way you can imagine the anguish of those innocent babies. This trauma will affect them for the rest of their lives.
…Most of my hate mail about immigrants comes from men. I don’t easily give up on people. So my hope is that many Republican women are sickened by this administration’s willingness to punish innocent children.
Where are you, my sisters? Where are you, mothers, aunts and grandmothers — any woman who loves a child? Is there a limit to what you would do to save the life of a child you love? Why, then, would we ask any less of parents who are fleeing the most dangerous countries in the world to save the lives of their children?
Yes, there are laws. And there are rules — God, yes, more by the day. But if your child’s life were at stake, is there any law you wouldn’t break, any border you wouldn’t cross, to keep your child safe? To keep your child alive?
Every American who cherishes a child understands the same fierce force of that love. I know it, and you know it. It’s time you let your members of Congress know it, too. You want to save the lives of children? Well, there they are, innocent and terrified, screaming for parents who tried to save them.