TrumpWatch, Day 527: Trump Lies, Calls for No Legal Process Over Immigration

A sign from the Families Belong Together rally in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018 (Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty)

Trying to hold the offensive, even as more than 2,000 immigrant children are still detained and separated from their parents, Donald Trump again resorts to lies and a threat to suspend the legal process.

Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy of breaking up immigrant families as they cross the US border, before they can reach a port of entry to claim asylum, has been checked by public criticism following revelations about the detained juveniles. Last week a federal judge in California ordered an end to the separations of children and parents, and reunions of families within 30 days — 14 days in the case of children under 5.

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The Administration is unlikely to meet that condition. The Pentagon has been ordered to construct facilities for up to 20,000 people on military bases but — even if they could be built within the time limit — the plan faces legal prohibition on detention of children, even with their parents, for more than 20 days.

There is also the practical difficulty that, in its haste to implement “zero tolerance”, the Administration did not keep adequate records and thus “lost” children who cannot be reconnected with their parents. Some mothers and fathers have already been deported, leaving juveniles behind in detention centers.

Only about 530 children of more than 2,500 seized have been reunited with parents so far.

A legislative path out of the crisis collapsed on Wednesday when a compromise immigration bill suffered a heavy defeat amid Republican division over the provisions.

So Trump began Saturday with a renewed attempt to shift blame, and to whip up those who still support him and “zero tolerance”, with misleading tweets. First, he falsely declared:

While some activists and legislators are calling for the end of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seen as heavy-handed in its implementation of the Adminstration’s crackdown, they are seeking a reform of enforcement rather than its abolition.

More directly, Trump was quickly challenged over his invocation of the specter of the MS-13 trans-national gang, used by the President to signal that all undocumented immigrants are threatening “animals”.

But Trump — who also said last week, as he signed a document which purported to end further family breakups, that New York’s Long Island had been “liberated” from MS-13 — pressed ahead, “The radical left Dems want [ICE] out. Next it will be all police.”

Later in the day, as Americans gathered across the country in Families Belong Together, Trump resorted to a blatant lie to distance himself from Wednesday’s legislative failure:

In fact, on the day of the vote, Trump tweeted in all caps, “HOUSE REPUBLICANS SHOULD PASS THE STRONG BUT FAIR IMMIGRATION BILL, KNOWN AS GOODLATTE II”.

Trump closed the day with another demand for the suspension of the legal process for undocumented immigrants. Having ruled out the appointment of more judges — a proposal by Republican senators — by denouncing them as unqualitied and opened to graft, Trump again portrayed hearings as an attempt to subvert the American system:

Meanwhile, there was no statement from Administration officails yesterday on the fate of the immigrant children who remain in detention.

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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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