Trump is still playing with immigrant children in an election year

The new humanitarian crisis unfolding in the United States border with Mexico has been stopped for the moment after President Donald Trump reversed his cruel policy of separating undocumented immigrant children and their parents

Trump is still playing with immigrant children in a election year
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas - Photo: Mike Blake/REUTERS
English 22/06/2018 16:52 Gabriel Moyssen Mexico City Actualizada 16:22
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The new humanitarian crisis unfolding in the United States border with Mexico has been stopped for the moment after President Donald Trump reversed his cruel policy of separating undocumented immigrant children and their parents, imposed with the aim on the midterm elections in November and his own reelection in 2020.

Trump backtracked on his strategy due to intense pressure from across the domestic political and social spectrum and from religious, political and world leaders.

The uproar grew last weekend with a viral photo of a toddler crying as her mother was detained in Texas and after the U.S. Border Patrol allowed reporters to visit an old warehouse in McAllen with 1,100 detained people, including 200 minors unaccompanied by a parent incarcerated in metal cages, each with some 20 children.

Meanwhile, it emerged that federal administration officials have been sending babies and young children taken from their families at the border to at least three “tender ageshelters in south Texas.

The real estate tycoon signed an executive order to keep parents and kids together, declaring on Wednesday that “the dilemma” is that “if you´re really, really pathetically weak, the country’s going to be overrun with millions of people. And if you’re strong, then you don’t have a heart. Perhaps I would rather be strong, but that’s a tough dilemma.”

The executive order, contradicting his previous argument that he had no authority to stop separations, in an attempt to blame Democrat lawmakers, specifies that migrants entering the U.S. with children will not be kept together if there is a fear for the child’s welfare. Families will also be prioritized in the adjudication process.

At a closed-door meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill, Trump said he is “1,000%” behind their immigration reform effort, yet he did not offer a clear path forward.

The negotiations have been stalled for months since the White House tried to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program protecting the 690,000 so-called “dreamers” and the case was brought to the Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he supports a plan to keep detained families together, but needs at least nine Democrats—who are opposed to funding the border wall with USD $25 billion—to get the 60 votes needed to pass a fix.

In the House of Representatives, the Republican majority has included a provision to end family separations and a pathway to citizenship for “dreamers.” A rival bill, sponsored by a ultra-conservative bloc, would not guarantee the path to citizenship.

Unilateral policies

As we have stressed on this pages, commenting the trade war unleashed by the White House against its own allies in North America and Europe, Trump’s government is not preoccupied by the self-inflicted damage that its unilateral policies from protectionism to climate change denial would cause to the U.S.

Instead, the focus has been placed on the short-term, defending the Republican majority on both chambers of Congress and unfortunately, that means pandering to the right-wing base.

Distancing from the more balanced stance that the administration assumed last year, when Vice President Mike Pence and Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray met in Miami with Central American leaders in an effort to tackle the structural economic and social problems behind migration, thousands of innocent children were taken as hostages to fulfill one of Trump’s chief campaign promises, the construction of a useless wall in the border.

Ironically, as a result Trump deepened the division in the Republican Party, jeopardizing the electoral prospects of moderate lawmakers.

One of them, Senator Ben Sasse, demanded to “immediately end this family separation policy” and even Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham and a prominent Trump supporter, said that “it’s disgraceful and it’s terrible to see families ripped apart.”

For its part, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the State of New York would file a “multi-agency lawsuit against the federal administration for violating the Constitutional rights of immigrant children and their families who have been separated.”

A Quinnipiac poll found that 27% of registered voters support and 66% oppose the policy of prosecuting parents who cross the border to seek asylum and separating them from their children; yet in a sharp contrast which shows the White House was appealing to its hardline followers, 55% of Republicans support the policy.

Over the course of six weeks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had separated nearly 2,000 children from adults at the border, enforcing the “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Overall, more than 10,000 children from Central America and other countries are currently in shelters run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The agency has 100 shelters in 14 states, which are 95% full, said its Administration for Children and Families.

This month, the HHS drew criticism after reports that 1,475 of the children they placed in custody to family members and other sponsors were “missing,” according to a survey 30 days later. No measures were taken for keeping track of separated parents and children concurrently and there is little coordination between the department and DHS.

Edited by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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