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The Trump administration is willfully terrorizing children

A mural on the wall of a child immigrant detention center with an image of Donald Trump, the White House, and the American flag, along with the words "Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war" in English and Spanish
Definitely not a creepy-ass thing to have taking up an entire wall in a child immigration detention center.*

The Trump administration is knowingly and intentionally terrorizing defenseless children.

Under their new “zero-tolerance” policy, every undocumented immigrant crossing the border is referred for prosecution, and their children are taken away from them, with no guarantee that they’ll ever see them again.

Officials from DHS, the Justice Department, and the White House shift the blame to the courts, the Democrats, the parents, whomever they can, but it’s the administration that’s doing it, and they’re doing it on purpose.

In one reported case, an infant was removed from her mother’s arms while she was breastfeeding and taken into DHS custody. The mother was handcuffed for resisting. Other parents say their children were taken off to get a shower and fresh clothes and never returned, and if you aren’t horrified by the image of children being taken from their parents, never be seen again, under the pretense of getting a nice shower, you’ve missed about 80 years of history, or you’re awful.

The kids are sent to overcrowded detention centers, five to a four-person room, with two hours (one “unstructured) of fresh air a day, not knowing when they’ll get to talk to their parents again, when they’ll get to see their parents again, when they’ll get to leave, where they’ll go when they do. The Trump administration is discussing plans to build “tent cities” on military bases to handle the unrelenting influx of separated children who won’t fit in the unused warehouses and former Walmart stores currently used as temporary (“temporary”) housing.

DHS won’t release a current count of children separated from their parents, but a Customs and Border Protection official told Congress that 658 children were taken just between May 6 and May 19. HHS is looking for space to house 1,000 to 5,000 additional kids in the near future. Kids. Children. Many of whom have witnessed or been subject to atrocities at home and are now sitting on a cot in an overcrowded Walmart with no idea of what’s going on.

There are laws, but this is not them

Republicans, of course, aren’t willing to attribute any of that to the Trump administration, because it’s objectively horrible. Paul Ryan recently blamed it on the Flores Agreement, saying that they “don’t want kids to be separated from their parents” but gosh, they just have no choice, the law is the law. Ted Cruz says that “even if we want to hold a family together, we are forbidden from doing so.” Are they ignorant, or flat-out lying? It sucks that it’s so hard to know.

The actual facts: The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement calls for unaccompanied minors to be released to family members or sponsors while their immigration case is underway. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 has them transferred to HHS custody instead, at which point a sponsor, usually a family member or family friend, is vetted and the kid is released into their care.

But remember that laws and policies regarding “unaccompanied minors” aren’t wholly transferrable to these recent situations because the minors aren’t unaccompanied when they arrive. Unaccompanied minors arrive at the border without a parent or legal guardian in the U.S. who can care for them. These kids arrive with their families, at which point DHS strips their accompaniment away. (In a previous post, I likened it to a cop bashing in your taillight and then giving you a ticket for a broken taillight.) Under previous administrations, families who arrived at the border would generally be held in family detention centers while immigration proceedings determined whether they would be deported or allowed to stay. Together. In 2015, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the 20-day limit applied to accompanied as well as unaccompanied minors. After three weeks, the kid(s) would be released — but almost always with their mother. Together.

With this new policy to prosecute every person who comes across the border undocumented, families aren’t put in family detention centers — the adults are put in regular detention centers, essentially jails, where kids aren’t allowed to go. That is the point at which the kids become “unaccompanied” and are handled by DHS as if they never had parents to begin with. That’s the point at which, depending on the outcome of their prosecution, parents might never see their kids again. It isn’t happening because of the Flores Agreement or the TVPRA or any “Democratic law” — it’s happening because of a Trump administration policy.

Terrorizing kids as a “deterrent”

“Don’t bring your kids, or we’ll traumatize them.” That’s the “deterrent.” That’s the reasoning of an abusive partner who wouldn’t have to hit you if you didn’t make him mad all the time. That’s a government willing to do this to kids, willing to separate them from their families and scare them and traumatize them. It doesn’t matter who can be “blamed” for it. The action itself is reprehensible.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has written letters to DHS begging them to stop doing it, calling it “inhumane.” Saying, “Many of these children are terrified, young, and are victims of or witnesses to violence themselves.” Saying, “Separation from the very parents who would provide them with love, stability, and reassurance only exacerbates children’s suffering.” DHS knows precisely how harmful this practice is to children, and they choose to do it anyway. They’ve knowingly inflicted this trauma on hundreds and hundreds of kids and are preparing to inflict it on thousands more. No blame-shifting or justification can change that.

“We do not have a policy to separate children from their parents. Our policy is, if you break the law we will prosecute you,” says DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “They are the ones who broke the law, they are the ones who endangered their own children on their trek,” says Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border,” he also says.

Note here that no one is denying that they’re doing this or that it’s horribly traumatizing to kids and parents. In fact, they’re tacitly reinforcing that it is horrible and traumatic — if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be functional as a deterrent. DHS is doing reprehensible shit knowingly and intentionally to achieve their purpose.

Oh, my God

In a fun and unexpected twist, Jeff Sessions came out Thursday and shifted the blame to… God.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government, because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”

Wow.

Wow.

(I wonder what God would say about that.)

(Well, there you go.)

There is so much there. What’s the worst part? The part where Paul is, of all the apostles in the Bible, undoubtedly the biggest asshole? The part where that particular verse has historically been used to defend slavery? How about the fact that the Bible is not and should not be used as an arbiter of public law and government activity? And then there’s the fact that it’s being used in this context to excuse the government’s policy of tearing families apart and imprisoning children who have usually come to the U.S. to escape some really horrible shit.

Yeah, let’s not overshadow that last part

The government’s policy is to tear families apart and imprison children who have usually come to the U.S. to escape some really horrible shit. They’re doing it on purpose. They’re doing it with full knowledge of how awful and traumatizing it is. They’re denying any culpability in it. They are terrorizing children to punish their parents. They are doing that. No matter who they’re trying to blame, no matter how they’re trying to justify it, they are doing that.

The Trump administration is knowingly and intentionally terrorizing defenseless children.

The Trump administration is knowingly and intentionally terrorizing defenseless children.

And in case you haven’t been keeping up with the news: The Trump administration is knowingly and intentionally terrorizing defenseless children.

*I was unaware that the original photo accompanying this post, showing children under Mylar blankets behind chain-link fences, was of a child immigrant detention center in 2014. I’ve changed it to a photo from a current detention center.

Posted in Law

6 thoughts on The Trump administration is willfully terrorizing children

  1. Jeff Sessions is putting immigrant children in concentration camps.

    Jeff Sessions uses St. Paul and Romans for an excuse, in violation of the Bill of Rights.

    Jeff Sessions is a traitor to his country and should be replaced.

    Trump drained the swamp, sent the gators to the shoe factory, and brought in Jurassic Park, with himself as the chief ass. This impresses Kim Jong Un and his loathesome kind but is destroying American credibility in the civilized world.

  2. What’s the difference? The Obama administration was knowingly and intentionally terrorizing defenseless children with drone bombings. One prohibition or another has always terrorized defenseless children by disrupting the family unit.
    “Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.”
    — H. L. Mencken
    Too bad so many insist on living under a government.

    1. Can we *not* with the what-aboutism, please?

      We can’t do anything about what happened in the past. But, hopefully, we change what’s happening in the present.

  3. I remember when our President had a slogan on his desk that said, “The buck stops here.” Now we have Dirty Don who will not accept responsibility for anything slightly controversial. He has to hide behind his LIES by blaming others and/or other groups for something he could change in an instant by a stroke of a pen. Literally.

  4. Please clarify that you mean the Dept. of Health and Human Services when you write DHS. In immigration discussions, DHS usually refers to the Department of Homeland Security. The sub-division of D(H)HS that deals with unaccompanied minors is the Office of Refugee Resettlement – ORR.

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