Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents and putting them in cages has run into a buzz saw recently. Millions of Americans, from urban young people to suburban moms to fathers in small towns, are outraged. On June 28, 600 women were arrested in Washington, DC, after staging a sit-in at a Senate office building against separating families. On June 30, hundreds of thousands demonstrated in some 750 cities across the country and in Puerto Rico. People carried signs with slogans such as “No one is free until we’re all free,” “Abolish ICE” and “What’s next? Concentration Camps?”
Ten days earlier, the mounting resistance forced Trump to order that, going forward, parents arrested at the border would be confined along with their children, rather than be separated from them. (Of course, none of these families should be confined at all.) Then on June 26, a federal judge ordered that the more than 2,000 children who had already been separated be reunited with their parents within 30 days.
The Trump administration has encountered a snag to detaining minors indefinitely—the 1997 Flores court settlement limits their detention to 20 days. Attorney General Sessions has been tasked to look for ways to waive or modify this limit.
Hundreds of unaccompanied immigrant children are still being held in tents in the brutal Texas heat. A closed-down WalMart in south Texas is another detention center, housing 1,500 boys ages 10 to 17. The Office of Refugee Resettlement is now overseeing an estimated 100 shelters in 17 states, housing more than 11,000 youths. Eighty percent of undocumented border crossers are unaccompanied teenagers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who are being held. Where are their families? What crime have they committed?
We are living in a morally corrupt system in which even elected officials are being denied entry to these detention facilities, where there are reports of unspeakable abuse and deficiencies in caring for these children. Parents report having no contact with their children, and not knowing where they are. Young children are suffering from this separation and will end up with life-long trauma. Some parents report that they have lost their children to others adopting them! With all the protests against these inhumane policies, those legislators who weren’t already listening are being forced to listen.
Trump is now proposing using minors as a sort of “ransom,” offering parents reunification with their loved ones only if they sign their voluntary departure from the U.S. He has also proposed suspending due process rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and returning undocumented persons to their home countries as soon as they cross the border, without being able to apply for asylum. Some Congress members have instead proposed sending 200 additional immigration judges to the US-Mexico border to expedite processing these cases, which normally take years to be heard.
Through the government’s terrorizing of immigrants, an ugly fascism is being rolled out that is affecting more than just migrants. This is at the heart of what is going on. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. land or coastal border, which includes and affects about 200 million people in numerous states, not just the U.S.-Mexico border. Stripping migrants of their rights threatens everyone’s rights.
Meanwhile “establishment” Democrats are trying to position themselves as leaders in the fight to keep families together. Things have certainly gotten worse with Trump, but we all remember that Obama became the “deporter in chief.”
The finger-pointing of blame continues between the Republicans and Democrats that there has been no agreement on immigration legislation; nothing on Dreamers, DACA or comprehensive reform. Lawsuits are freezing many decisions. The elections in November will no doubt be another distraction since the decision-makers are not prioritizing immigration solutions.
The real question is: will we have fascism or democracy? In this regard, the stance of the American people against the immoral separation of the children and for immigrant rights is key to the resistance to a dictatorship. We the people must continue to make our voices heard. The future is up to us.