Thursday, June 21, 2018

Latest nightmare for migrants ends -- for now -- June 21, 2018 column


As President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday, ending his cruel policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the southern border, he said: “You’re going to have a lot of happy people.”

Don’t believe it.

This is not the start of a kinder, gentler Trump. If anything, the president likely will feel the need to show his tougher side to compensate for caving in on his administration’s policy of separating families. 

Yes, the shameful spectacle of families being torn apart has ended – at least for now. 

Families seeking asylum and a better life after long and dangerous trips to the border will be allowed to stay together. But Trump wants to keep them  incarcerated indefinitely.

So much for the Statue of Liberty’s promise to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

His “zero tolerance” crackdown continues, with his administration continuing to prosecute every person caught crossing the border illegally.

There’s no plan to reunite more than 2,300 babies and children already separated from their parents and held in facilities around the country.

Immigration officials reportedly kept such poor records that reunification specialists warn it may take parents a long time to find their children and some may never find them at all.

In addition, Trump plans to issue tougher rules for legal – as well as illegal – immigration.

Trump’s retreat shows the power of social and traditional media. The photos and audio of toddlers wailing for their parents were horrifying.

His about-face proved he lied. After repeatedly claiming he could not end by executive order the policy he initiated, he did just that.

The administration announced its zero-tolerance policy in April, and yet Trump repeatedly blamed Democrats, as in this tweet: “The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.” He sometimes blamed a “law” that doesn’t exist.

As the crisis over separations grew, Trump met Tuesday with congressional Republicans behind closed doors. Whatever else they said, the Republicans appeased the president’s fragile ego by giving him a standing ovation. We know because he tweeted out a picture.

The next day, he reversed the policy he had said he couldn’t reverse through an executive order so hastily written it misspelled separation. The fix may be temporary.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned members of Congress in a private meeting that family separations could resume if Congress fails to go along with Trump’s immigration demands, The Washington Post reported.

Trump believes his tough stand on immigration was key to winning the White House, and he’s terrified of appearing weak.

Not until every former first lady, his own wife and daughter, a bevy of Republicans in Congress, the American people and the Pope rose in moral outrage did he reluctantly play the compassion card.

“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 any heart,” Trump told congressional Republicans Wednesday. “Perhaps I’d rather be strong, but that’s a tough dilemma.”

Currently the government is prohibited by a court order known as the Flores settlement from keeping migrant children in detention longer than 20 days. Trump directed 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions to seek a modification to the order so kids and families can be kept indefinitely, throughout their court proceedings. 

The administration is considering several other policies to curtail legal immigration, including “tightening rules on student visas and exchange programs; limiting visas for temporary agricultural workers; making it harder for legal immigrants who have 
applied for any welfare programs to obtain residency; and collecting biometric data from visitors from certain countries,” Politico reported.

While Trump enjoyed his usual support from Republicans – Fox News host Tucker Carlson told viewers not to believe news on other TV networks -- Democrats claimed the moral high ground, contending the separations would leave a lasting stain on the country, similar to the shame of Japanese internment camps during World War II.

Both sides, unfortunately, are more intent on scoring political points for November than on fixing the immigration system everyone agrees is broken.  

So, no, President Trump, there are not a lot of happy people -- not Republicans, not Democrats and not desperate migrant families who are still yearning to breathe free.

(c)2018 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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