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Wednesday, June 13, 2018


They're here

by Tom Sullivan

If there was ever any doubt what the Trump administration represents, well....

“This is as bad as I’ve ever seen in 25 years of doing this work,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the A.C.L.U.’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times. “The little kids are literally being terrorized.”

For the record, children are being terrorized per policies established by sitting President Donald J. Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

As authorities forcibly remove children from their parents, many seeking asylum at the border, they have shuffled detainees from the custody of Customs and Homeland Security to Department of Health and Human Services contract facilities to federal prisons and now to, effectively, internment camps.

Because its zero-tolerance policies have created such an overflow of detainees — parents here, children there, somewhere — McClatchy reports the Trump administration intends to build a tent city on a military base in El Paso to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children. The government now detains more than 10,000 children at 100 DHS facilities that are 95 percent full.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) spoke last night with Chris Hayes of MSNBC of visiting a federal prison in her state. She met 174 women from 16 different countries, denied the opportunity of a "credible fear" hearing to begin the asylum process. Most had not seen an attorney. A few had been struck. Many had been separated from children as young as 1.

"I hugged as many of them as I could because I just want them to know that we know they are human beings who are seeking safety and security," Jayapal told reporters outside the prison. "It was heartbreaking.”

Goldberg writes that for undocumented immigrants in America, fascism is not merely a looming threat. "It's already here."
America’s immigration system was capricious and cruel before Trump. Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, recently visited an immigrant processing center in McAllen, Tex. Describing how men, women, boys and girls were separated and kept in chain-linked enclosures, he emphasized that the site wasn’t new: “It’s essentially the same construction that was there during Obama,” he said. The difference is that, until recently, the kids’ section held older children who had crossed the border on their own. Now, he told me, the youngest was 4 or 5.

These kids are being used as pawns to persuade parents to give up their asylum claims and to warn others against coming to America. The administration, Merkley told me, has “decided that treating kids in this fashion would influence the adults not to seek asylum. They would hurt children to influence the parents.”

There are still mechanisms in American government that can stop this evil. Last Friday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, proposed a bill that would keep most families detained at the border together. The A.C.L.U. has filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents whose children were taken from them and is asking a federal court for a nationwide injunction to stop family separations.

But for now, what is happening is the sort of moral enormity that once seemed unthinkable in contemporary America, the kind captured in the Martin Niemöller poem that’s repeated so often it’s become a cliché: “First they came …” There is no reason to believe that undocumented immigrants will be the last group of people deemed beyond the law’s protection.
If Donald Trump (and his most virulent supporters) had his way, journalists, celebrities, comedians, and political opponents might already fall into that category.

When Merkley asked guards at a detention center whether they worried about the effects of their actions on the children, they told him, “We simply follow the orders from above.”

At the end of their shifts, camp guards will go home to their families, pet the dog, hug their kids, and say grace over dinner.

Goldberg's prediction Trump's policy will expand is already here too. Associated Press reports plans are underway to strip citizenship from naturalized citizens suspected of falsifying their citizenship applications by adopting new identities after deportation. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna told AP his agency is hiring several dozen attorneys and immigration officers to cross reference fingerprint records to find deportees who may have returned and gained citizenship under aliases.

Kansas immigration attorney Matthew Hoppock worries, however, that in addition to true frauds, the innocent may get caught in the net and not have resources to fight back in court. Cissna offered assurances that "denaturalization" of citizens for minor discrepancies is not his goal.

But given the anti-immigrant mood the president and his enablers have stoked, even properly naturalized citizens might have reason to worry.

Vandals defaced an Irish landmark in Kansas City over the weekend:
Vandals spray-painted "Immigrants Not Welcome" on a wall at Browne's Irish Marketplace, a Midtown storefront founded in 1887 by Irish immigrants.

The marketplace has been recognized by the Irish government as the oldest Irish building in North America, according to co-owner Kerry Browne.

Together with her husband, John McClain, Browne is the fourth generation in her family to helm the Irish deli, grocery and retail shop. Yet in more than 130 years, she said, this is the first time the store has ever experienced such a brazen act of prejudice.
In 230 years, America has never experienced a presidency like Donald Trump's either.

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