Making Sense of “Family Separation” of Asylum Seekers

By Michael Bryan

As have millions of Americans, I have felt deeply and instinctually that the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, that has resulted in separating thousands of children of all ages from their parents, is immoral, inhumane, and probably a violation of the law.

In an attempt to clarify my own thoughts I have been doing a good deal of reading on the subject. I thought that many of you might be interested in following the same path as I, so I wrote less of a think piece and more a pathfinder on the subject. You might try reading the same material as I and see if you view things differently than I at the end.

“I started with well-researched overviews of the subject by the Congressional Research Service and the National Immigration Forum. The former is a longer-term overview starting with Obama-era policies and was written before the Trump Administration began the current outrage, and the later has a somewhat ‘left’ policy bias. Both left me with a better understanding of how we arrived where we are.

Key to why children were being separated is the Flores case and settlement, which caps the length of time children can be held in immigration detention. It was this settlement that is the factual basis for Trump’s lie that it was “democrat laws” that forced the family separations.

The separation of children from their families has obvious moral and legal problems: Mexico and the United Nations have called it a human rights violation, and there are good reasons to believe that it violates our own Constitution.

The “solution” that the Trump Administration has proposed, now that they seem to have folded on any further family separations, is to incarcerate whole families indefinitely, directing Defense Secretary Mattis to house them on military property, which presents legal and moral challenges of its own. One of the more dire being the moral injury to the personnel of the armed forces ordered to administer concentration camps.

This self-created crisis of the Trump Administration and recent primary fights in Congress have brought to the surface the movement to abolish ICE. I can certainly see the emotional appeal of that position, but I wanted a contrary, yet not overtly partisan, counterpoint to that view.

Behind all of that recent controversy is the clear harm done to children forcibly separated from their parents by incarceration: our carceral system does this to U.S. citizens every day without any major outcry. Isn’t that just as harmful? Shouldn’t this crisis give us cause to rethink the effect of incarceration on American families?”

Personally, I am surprised there have not been stronger calls from Dems for mass resignations from the Trump Administration of anyone who even knew about this ‘policy’ initiative, starting with the odious little man likely behind it, Stephen Miller. It is so obviously wrong and evil in its effect that I have a hard time believing that no one foresaw the revulsion that has gripped the American people and the international community upon learning of it. Anyone involved should have foreseen that this would damage America’s moral standing in the world.

This really boils down to a dirty and shameful kidnapping and extortion racket run by the U.S. government. Some bright bulb (probably Miller) thought, “why don’t we try holding asylum seekers children hostage against their ‘voluntary’ departure and see how that works out?”

Instead of taking proactive measures in the Courts to modify the Flores settlement to allow children to stay with their families after 20 days, the Trump Administration bulled forward foolishly, recklessly, and incompetently (which really has become their calling card) to scatter innocent children around the country with no planning or tracking to ensure they could be reunited.

Even that much such foresight simply begs the question of the morality, legality and due process implications of indefinite family detentions, which our nation will now explore willy-nilly. The Trump Administration will get its ass handed to it ignominiously in a dozen courts, and then proclaim a victory in the war on immigration to his base once the whole improvised cluster-fuck explodes. In the mean-time, our moral standing in the world will suffer for Trump’s vanity and incompetent posturing. Perhaps this crisis will give us pause regarding the effect of our carceral system on American families, though that may just be wishful thinking on my part.

We have one answer to the question often heard before the 2016 election: “What’s the worst that could happen if Trump were President?”

17 thoughts on “Making Sense of “Family Separation” of Asylum Seekers”

  1. Where’s the Community Events info for the many AZ End Family Separation & Child Detention demos on 6/30/18, from Nogales to Flagstaff and beyond?

  2. You suggest that Trump should go to the courts to get an extension of the Flores 20 day limit to detection but those detentions are in detection centers, which are more like jails than presumably housing on military bases would be. I have lived on military bases. I think that they would be a lot better than detention centers.

    I think you need to rethink this one or at least wait for more info on the military accommodations.

    • When you can’t leave it’s a jail, no matter how nice. I doubt your stay on a military base involved being kept in a hastily constructed tent city in the middle of summer, either.

  3. I’m not, military personnel are. However, I do agree that it problematic to ask the same armed forces that liberated death camps to run detention camps for people seeking asylum in this country.

  4. I was following along until I stumbled on this sentence: “One of the more dire being the moral injury to the personnel of the armed forces ordered to administer concentration camps.” That’s the kind of sentence that scares reasonable people away. Are you really equating confinement with one’s family on a military base with being inside a concentration camp?

    • Do you include yourself in the “reasonable” category? If so, I would point out that your reasonableness didn’t keep you from commenting with your concern trolling.

        • Actually, John, Michael is correct. You are not being reasonable.

          You are engaging in a form of intellectual dishonesty common in conservative circles.

          You find some nit to pick and use that to dismiss the entire issue.

          And you either pretend not to know, or you are uninformed on the subject, because ICE has complained about cruelty of Trump’s policy, detention center workers have complained, and some have quit.

          Please show me the soldier or ICE agent who says “this is what I signed up for, concentration camp guard”.

          Coming to the border seeking asylum is not illegal. Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor, and not something that should come with a life sentence for children.

          I’m actually surprised to find you trolling on this subject, given that you cost Arizona over 2 billion dollars with your poorly thought out SB1070. Racist policies are expensive.

          2 billion dollars. I don’t think I could show my face in public if I were you.

          BTW, how’s your SB1070 BFF Kris Kobach holding up? I’m sure he’s pretty bummed about being told he’s a crappy lawyer by Judge Robinson. All that Yale money wasted.

          You need better allies.

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