Wednesday brought good tidings to those whose conception of an ideal society doesn’t include refugee children locked in cages.
President Trump caved to enormous political pressure on Wednesday and signed an executive order that ends the separation of families by indefinitely detaining parents and children together at the border.
“We’re going to have strong, very strong borders but we are going to keep the families together,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the order at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
The order said that officials will continue to criminally prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally, but will seek to find or build facilities that can hold families — parents and children together — instead of separating them while their legal cases are considered by the courts.
Mr. Trump’s executive order directed the government’s lawyers to ask for a modification of an existing 1997 consent decree, known as the Flores settlement, that currently prohibits the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention — even if they are with their parents — for more than 20 days.
While I’ve been disheartened about the state of resistance to Trump’s more monstrous policies in recent months, I find a modicum of reassurance that most citizens still draw the line at sending minors to concentration camps. Grassroots activism, specifically raising a ruckus at Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, appears to have been the spark that finally set widespread public outrage ablaze.
But what did we win, exactly? It’d be nice to think we achieved a lasting victory against The Bad Men. Available evidence leads us to a different conclusion. If Trump’s new executive order manages to circumvent the Flores settlement, these children will still be imprisoned. Indefinitely. To put it more crudely: the family that’s caged together, stays together.
[A] Health and Human Services official said that more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents under the president’s “zero tolerance” policy will not be immediately reunited with their families while the adults remain in federal custody during their immigration proceedings.
“There will not be a grandfathering of existing cases,” said Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Wolfe said the decision about the children was made by the White House, but he added, “I can tell you definitively that is going to be policy.”
This is not a victory for democracy. It’s not just that ICE executed unconscionable orders from the West Wing. ICE, in tactics and in function, is antithetical to a free and open society. They were heinous under Bush and Obama, and under the new regime they’ve been retooled to be even more heinous. The words of ICE director Thomas Homan – who’s just one vowel off from being human – give us a fuller understanding of his organization’s mindset.
The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Monday that comparing ICE agents to Nazis is unfair, because “they’re simply enforcing laws enacted by Congress”.
Thomas Homan employed the “Nuremberg defense” – used by German Nazi officials in an attempt to escape accountability with the claim they were merely following orders.
Congress didn’t enact a law legitimizing “family segregation”; Jeff Sessions enacted the “zero-tolerance policy” in April at the behest of Donald Trump. From his first days in office, Trump and his most unhinged advisers have signaled that they intend to revanche white political and cultural domination through every mechanism at their disposal. The travel ban, Trump’s Charlottesville prevarication and family segregation are the best known efforts to advance the agenda, but also the clumsiest. And though it was (almost) shocking that the president was willing to use kidnapped children as a bargaining chip for his wall, his administration has taken equally insidious but more occluded steps in this direction. One recent example: the administration is scanning naturalized citizens’ old fingerprints to find any excuse they can to denaturalize them. The people who our government may render stateless number in the thousands. If past is prologue, Trump’s government will continue to transgress human rights and fundamental decency, each time testing the public for signs of complacency.
ICE serves as the shock troops for a colder, darker America.