It’s been six weeks since a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to fix the crisis it created when it separated more than 2,500 children from their parents under a heartless policy designed to deter desperate families from entering the US illegally. But the job of reunification still isn’t done, in part because the government failed to devise a system to track the separated families. Some 400 parents reportedly have already been deported without their children, and the government apparently has no idea how to reach them. It’s a colossal snafu that is as appalling as it is inexplicable. Among the many inhumane immigration enforcement policies adopted in the first two years of the Trump reign, history may well regard this bit of idiocy as the worst.
Or perhaps not; the competition hasn’t closed yet. In fact, the Pentagon is working on plans, at Trump’s direction, to house 20,000 detained immigrants – including children this time – in secured areas of military bases while they await deportation proceedings. Yes, the Obama administration did something similar when it tried to deal with the inflow of unaccompanied minors from Central America. It was a bad idea then, and it’s a bad idea now; kids don’t belong in prisons on military bases. Under a court order, the government cannot hold minors for more than 20 days before releasing them to the custody of their parents, other relatives or vetted guardians.
When it comes to immigration, there has been such a flood of bad policies and ham-handed enforcement acts since Trump took office that it can be hard to keep it all straight.
First there was the ban on travel of people from mostly Muslim countries and then the effort to eliminate protections for so-called “Dreamers” who have been living in the country illegally since arriving as children. Hard-line Attorney General Jeff Sessions has inserted himself in the immigration court system and overridden previous decisions over who qualifies for asylum; not surprisingly, the number of people granted protection has dropped as a result. President Trump also has throttled the flow of refugees resettled in the United States.
Then there’s this: The White House is reportedly drafting a plan that would allow immigration officials to deny citizenship, green cards and residency visas to immigrants if they or family members have used certain government programmes, such as food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit or Obamacare.
And this: The now largely abandoned “zero tolerance” policy of filing misdemeanour criminal charges against people crossing the border illegally led to a surge of cases in federal court districts along the southwest border as non-immigration criminal prosecutions plummeted, according to an analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. In fact, non-immigration prosecutions fell from 1,093 (1 in 7 prosecutions) in March to 703 (1 in 17 prosecutions) in June, suggesting that serious crimes are taking a back seat to misdemeanour border crossing.
Meanwhile, a Government Accountability Office report this week questions how US Customs and Border Patrol set priorities in planning where to build Trump’s border wall, and said the agency failed to account for wide variations in terrain in estimating the cost – which means that extending the existing border walls and fences another 722 miles could cost more than the administration’s $18bn estimate. And while the president crows that the wall will secure the border, it won’t, experts say.
Trump’s immigration policy has been characterised by unnecessary detention and inadequate monitoring that has allowed for abuses at detention centres. In short, it’s been a disaster. – Tribune News Service
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