“Dear Leader” Donald Trump reversed course today in the face of public outrage against his immoral, inhumane and cruel family-separation policy.
Instead, he will now jail families together in indefinite detention. That’s a middle-finger to America. His defiance of the law and his cruelty knows no bounds.
The Washington Post reports, Trump reverses course, says he will put an end to family separations on southern border:
President Trump abruptly reversed course Wednesday, saying he would sign an executive order ending family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border after a public uproar over the impact of his administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
The plan, as described by administration officials, would keep families together in federal custody while awaiting prosecution for illegal border crossings, potentially violating a 1997 court settlement limiting the duration of child detentions.
“We have to be very strong on the border but at the same time we want to be very compassionate,” Trump said at the White House during a meeting with lawmakers that was opened to the media.
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Trump’s order is not expected to alter the “zero tolerance” policy itself that the administration put in place in April. Under that policy, the administration has sought to prosecute as many border-crossing offenses as possible, including those involving families with children.
Because the Justice Department can’t prosecute children along with their parents, the result of the zero-tolerance policy has been a sharp rise in the number of children detained separately.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said 2,342 children have been separated from their parents since last month.
One administration official said Trump’s order would end separations by keeping families together in immigration detention centers.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates two large detention centers for families in Texas and a smaller one in Pennsylvania, but their combined capacity is about 3,000 beds.
As of mid-June, the three centers were nearly full, meaning ICE would potentially need to place children in its much larger network of immigration jails for adults.
That would most likely violate the 1997 “Flores Settlement” agreement that limits the government’s ability to keep children in detention and orders them to be placed in least-restrictive setting possible.
A subsequent ruling in 2016 bars the government from keeping children in family detention centers for more than 20 days.
An administration official with knowledge of the plan indicated that the Trump administration was anticipating lawsuits and preparing to litigate Flores in court, particularly if lawmakers fail to approve a legislative fix.
“It may be easier to overturn the Flores Settlement than get Congress to pass something,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank whose restrictionist views on immigration policy have won broad influence in the White House.
“Getting rid of the Flores Settlement is the quickest way to solve the problem,” Krikorian said. “The government has been faced with the choice of either splitting the family by detaining the parent and releasing the kid, or just letting the parent go too.”
Striking down the ruling became a goal of immigration hard-liners, particularly after a 2016 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals limiting the government’s ability to keep children in detention for more than 20 days.
In most cases, that window is not enough time for those families to go before an immigration judge, so ICE has typically released families together with some form of electronic monitoring.
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy broke with that approach by separating families and sending adults to ICE jails while assigning migrant children to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Trump’s executive order would instead keep entire families in ICE detention centers, most likely in violation of the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling on the Flores Settlement.
Laura Clawson at Daily Kos explains, Trump to change his family separation policy … by indefinitely jailing kids with their parents:
After repeatedly insisting that his administration’s policy of taking asylum-seekers’ children from them at the border is required by law and all the fault of Democrats, Donald Trump will sign an order shifting the policy to one of indefinitely detaining families without separating them. The New York Times reports that Trump, “furious about the pummeling he has taken in recent days, has been casting about for an escape from the crisis, people familiar with his thinking said.”
It’s illegal to put kids in jail with their parents, and, the Washington Post reports, three existing family detention centers are already almost full, “meaning ICE would potentially need to place children in its much larger network of immigration jails for adults.” Because releasing people while their asylum cases are heard is unthinkable, if you’re as cruel as Trump.
Indefinitely detaining children will face strong legal challenges, but Trump isn’t willing to do the right thing (ha) and back all the way down by ending the “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all asylum-seekers for the misdemeanor of illegal entry into the United States. Ending that policy is something he could easily do now—or never have started to begin with—because family separation is 100 percent a Trump administration creation. The administration now appears ready to challenge earlier court decisions limiting the amount of time children can be kept in detention.
A few of the big questions now are the details of how this will work out, how quickly the court challenges will proceed, and whether families that have already been separated will be reunited.
That’s a problem. The New Yorker reports, The Government Has No Plan for Reuniting the Immigrant Families It Is Tearing Apart (excerpt):
The federal departments involved in dealing with separated families have institutional agendas that diverge. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—the agency at the D.H.S. that handles immigrant parents—is designed to deport people as rapidly as it can, while O.R.R.—the office within the Department of Health and Human Services (H.H.S.) that assumes custody of the kids—is designed to release children to sponsor or foster families in the U.S. Lately, O.R.R. has been moving more slowly than usual, which has resulted in parents getting deported before their children’s cases are resolved. There’s next to no coördination between D.H.S. and H.H.S. “ice detainees are not allowed to receive calls, so any calls need to be individually arranged,” Michelle Brané, of the Women’s Refugee Commission, told me. “A phone call is not a fix for separation. It is a call, often with a very young child. A call is a Band-Aid.” A number of lawyers that I’ve spoken with described personally pressuring individual deportation officers to delay a parent’s deportation until she can be reunified with her child or, failing that, until children and parents can be deported at roughly the same time.
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Even if father and daughter have spoken, getting reunited is far from assured. There is no formal process in place to insure that a family that’s been separated at the border gets deported back to their home country together. For now, just knowing the whereabouts of a child is a start. “I have a master’s degree, and I’m fluent in English,” Kephart said. “And it takes me days to figure one of these cases out.”
UPDATE: NBC News reported, Separated Families Won’t Be Immediately Reunited: HHS:
An official with Health and Human Services says the more than 2,300 children separated from their parents at the border as a result of a zero-tolerance policy on illegal crossings won’t be immediately reunited with their families.
Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the department’s Administration for Children and Families, says their cases will proceed through the system.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said his department will start reuniting detained immigrant children with their parents, but he made no specific commitment on how quickly that can be accomplished. And officials said the cases of the children already separated and turned over to their custody would proceed as usual.
HHS subsequently sought to walk back Wolfe’s statement. HHS division spokesman walks back comments on future of separated migrant families:
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) walked back comments from a spokesperson late Wednesday, revising an earlier statement that said there would be no special effort from the Trump administration to reunite migrant families separated at the border.
“An ACF spokesperson misspoke earlier regarding the Executive Order signed today by the President. It is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter,” the department’s communications director, Brian Marriott, said in a statement. ACF is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
But it’s not that easy. Former ICE chief predicts many migrant children will never be reunited with their parents:
Former acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Sandweg predicted Tuesday that some of the children and parents won’t be reunited for years, if ever. “Permanent separation — it happens,” Sandweg, who led the agency in 2013-14, told NBC News. The parents are pushed through court and often deported fairly quickly, but the children are processed at a dramatically slower rate, and once the parents are back in Central America, the odds of reunification drop dramatically, Sandweg said. Because children who spend years in the foster system are often made wards of the state and adopted, he added, “you could be creating thousands of immigrant orphans in the U.S. that one day could become eligible for citizenship when they are adopted.”
So the Trump administration now intends to jail families crossing the border in indefinite detention, awaiting deportation hearings before hearing officers and judges in an immigration system the zero tolerance policy has already overwhelmed. But Trump rejects calls for more immigration judges: ‘We have to have a real border, not judges.
The inevitable lawsuits to follow are seen an opportunity for the administration to relitigate the Flores settlement for the purpose of arguing in favor of more executive department authority and discretion in processing immigrant families.
I suspect that this indefinite detention plan and new detention centers are just the beginning of preparations for the roundup of some 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States for mass deportations back to their home country, something that Trump promised his nativist and racist MAGA supporters during the campaign. Don’t be surprised.
UPDATE: The Flores Settlement Agreement is a complex and detailed agreement on how children are to be treated in the immigration system. It specifically authorizes plaintiffs’ legal counsels to inspect immigration detention centers to monitor and to enforce the settlement agreement. It has been in place for 21 years under both Republican and Democratic administrations. President Trump’s executive order asks the Department of Justice to reopen the Flores settlement for revisions to allow the federal government to build family detention centers on U.S. military bases, which would remove these facilities from state professional licensing requirements for those working in immigration detention centers.
Peter Shey, a lawyer for the Human Rights & Constitutional Law Foundation representing the plaintiffs, explains what the Trump administration wants in trying to revise the Flores Settlement. Video Link.
If the Trump administration can convince the court to agree to its revisions, a highly dubious proposition, it would erect family immigration detention centers on U.S. military bases, like this temporary “tent city” recently erected in Tornillo, Texas.
Let’s just call this what it is: this is an internment camp, like the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Richard Parker writes at the New York Times, American Internment Camps:
Late last week a sprawling tent city opened in Tornillo, outside El Paso. It is surrounded by chain-link fencing topped with barbed wire and hemmed in between the Rio Grande and I-10. Like several others along the United States-Mexico border, the Tornillo facility is intended to hold children apprehended for entering this country illegally.
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[T]he Tornillo facility, already home to perhaps dozens of teenage boys — very little is known about it, and no reporters have been allowed inside — will hold hundreds of minors, possibly for months at a time. Whatever the federal government chooses to call it, this is an internment camp.
Much of West Texas has been turned into a new front in the Trump administration’s war on undocumented immigrants. And wars take prisoners. Some 900 adult immigrants are locked up in the El Paso County jail. Children are held at facilities run by a private outfit, Southwest Key Programs. The government is reportedly planning to incarcerate still more people on military bases in El Paso, Abilene and San Angelo.
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Further information [about the camp] is vague and contradictory. Some reports say that only unaccompanied minors are being held at the camp, but Representative O’Rourke said he was told that about 20 percent of the boys at Tornillo were separated from their parents. The facility is officially supposed to hold a few hundred boys, but Representative Hurd said he was told on the tour that it may be expanded to hold 4,000.
There is something strange about a secret facility surrounded by dozens of journalists and camera crews. At the moment, it may be the most famous camp in America. “So why,” Representative Gonzalez asked after her tour, “are they trying to keep it a secret?”
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As a result, these places are most reminiscent of the American internment camps of World War II. Coincidentally, one of the most notorious was called Crystal City, located 110 miles southwest of San Antonio. It held over 3,000 people of Japanese, German and Italian descent during World War II, including native-born American citizens. But even that camp was more humane: Schooling was provided for children, who were kept with families, said Carl Takei, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union whose own grandparents were split by that war: his grandmother in a camp and his grandfather fighting for the United States Army in Europe.
The government calls Tornillo and other sites “detention” facilities, emphasizing its view that the occupants are above all lawbreakers. But “internment” seems a better, more realistic and accurate term. It describes the confinement of prisoners of war, citizens of other nations and political prisoners without trial. With its troops, walls and arrests, the Trump administration is effectively waging war on a comparatively peaceful stretch of its own country, where no crisis existed.
Detention also implies some measure of due process. But while the teenagers here may see an immigration judge, it will be an administrative, nonjudicial proceeding. And if history is any guide they probably won’t even get an immigration lawyer.
The government has said it can hold them for nearly two months. If it’s true, then the camp in Tornillo may soon grow 10 times its current size. It is unclear when or how any of these boys will find their families again. Behind the secrets, fences and barbed wire, this is a 21st-century American internment camp. For children.
If the Trump administration can get the court to agree to this for new arrivals, it will normalize this process so that the next step will be rounding up some 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States for mass deportations back to their home country.
Last night, the unrepentant racist demagogue Trump promised his white nationalist and racist MAGA supporters at a campaign rally in Duluth, MN that ‘We’re Sending Them the Hell Back,’ Trump Says of Securing the Country’s Borders:
“The Democrats want open borders: ‘Let everybody pour in, we don’t care,’” he said, as the crowd erupted into a chant of “Build the Wall,” and mocked a handful of people who tried to protest his policy. (“Go home to your mom,” the president told at least one demonstrator.)
He said of other countries: “They’re not sending their finest. We’re sending them the hell back. That’s what we’re doing.”
America is better than this. The personality cult of Donald Trump is not who we are.