TrumpWatch, Day 513: The Trump Administration’s Path to Splitting Children from Immigrant Families

A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained in McAllen, Texas, June 12, 2018 (John Moore/Getty)

Stephen Miller: “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period.”


Developments on Day 513 of the Trump Administration:

See also VideoCast with CNN: “Inhumanity” — Trump, Lies, & Separation of Children from Immigrant Parents
VideoCast with Al Jazeera: Trump’s Trade War with China


The Trump Administration, almost as soon as it took office in January 2017, pursued the separation of children from undocumented immigrant parents.

Since the policy was implemented by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April, almost 2,000 children have been put in detention centers as their parents — 91% of whom are charged with misdemeanors and not felonies — are taken to court. Plans are underway to build more centers, labelled as “tent cities”, on military bases in Texas to hold thousands of juveniles.

Amid revelations of the extent of the enforcement — in one case, a daughter was taken from a breast-feeding mother — and the conditions in the centers, the White House has repeatedly lied that the separations are because of a law passed by Democrats, rather than the Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Donald Trump has doubled down on the lies in the past week, both on Twitter and in a Friday press conference on the White House South Lawn.

See White House Lies About Separation of Children from Immigrant Parents
Trump’s Zero Tolerance: “Effectively, These Kids Are Incarcerated”
“Zero Tolerance”: Federal Officials Take Daughter Away as Immigrant Mother Breast-Fed Her

But the truth is that Trump officials have been dedicated to reversal of the Obama Administration’s 2014 order that separations not be carried out, with Homeland Security Director John Kelly — now White House Chief of Staff — saying that separation was necessary “to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network”.

Donald Trump temporarily dropped the idea after Kelly’s remark drew criticism. But advocates, led by White House policy advisor Stephen Miller, never gave up. Trump returned to the effort, berating Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen at a Cabinet meeting to the point where she considered resignation.

Kelly laid out the approach in an interview with National Public Radio in May:

A big name of the game is deterrence. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever — but the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States, and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.

In his own comments last week, Miller undermined the attempt by the White House and Trump to shift blame to the Democrats:

No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement. It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.

And amid the lies, Attorney General Sessions claimed credit for the policy by invoking — out of context — a passage from the Bible: “Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution. 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 them for the purpose of order.”

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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