Trump's zero-tolerance mess

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Lori Robertson at FactCheck examines the accusation that the Obama administration separated families just as Trump's is doing. The truth is a bit different:

In defending its "zero tolerance" border policy that has caused the separation of families, the Trump administration has argued that the Obama and Bush administrations did this too. That's misleading. Experts say there were some separations under previous administrations, but no blanket policy to prosecute parents and, therefore, separate them from their children.

Under a "zero tolerance policy" on illegal immigration announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in early April, the administration is now referring all illegal border crossings for criminal prosecution. By doing that, parents have been separated from their children, because children can't be held in detention facilities for adults.

DHS told us that 2,342 children were separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9.

But DHS couldn't provide any statistics on how many children may have been separated from their parents under the Obama administration. [...] [Sarah Pierce, policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute] said that the likely reason data aren't available on child separations under previous administrations is because it was done in "really limited circumstances" such as suspicion of trafficking or other fraud.

Salon's Jamelle Bouie disputes the reason for Trump's EO:

Trump wants credit for ending the crisis he created, calling an executive order he signed on Wednesday "very compassionate." But the order neither ends the crisis nor produces a more humane status quo. It's a public relations stunt, meant to dampen criticism without changing the fundamentals of the policy. "Zero tolerance" is still in effect, and Trump's manufactured crisis may well get worse.

The executive order, titled "Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation," does three things. It continues the zero tolerance policy of prosecution for illegal entry, but directs the Department of Homeland Security to keep families together in custody, instead of separating parents and placing them with the Department of Justice. Families will remain in DHS custody for the duration of their criminal and immigration cases, which may mean months of waiting in detention facilities.

As it stands, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is running out of space for the adults it already has in custody. To accommodate new detainees, the president has allowed other departments, including the military, to provide additional space. Thousands of children will move into facilities without the staff or equipment to handle them or their needs.

"Either way," Bouie continues, "the situation for migrant parents and children looks bleak:"

Yes, they'll be kept together, but in conditions that weren't designed for mass detention of families. And the haphazard nature of the policy only raises the real possibility of abuse and neglect, seen already in the facilities used for child detention.

The NYT's Charlie Savage explains Trump's Executive Order, and also answers a few questions:

What does the Flores case have to do with this?

The long-running class-action litigation over the treatment of children in immigration custody ended with a 1997 consent decree known as the Flores settlement. Under it, the government has been obligated to release children from immigration detention to relatives or, if none can be found, to a licensed program within about three to five days. If that is impossible, they must be held in the "least restrictive" setting appropriate to their age and needs.

Was an executive order necessary?

No. Mr. Trump likes the flourish of signing executive orders in front of cameras, but most of his have amounted to asking his administration to conduct reviews and come up with proposed solutions to problems, or they have consisted of directives that he could have instead made with a phone call. This is one of those orders.

AlterNet's Cody Fenwick lists "five major problems that still remain after the order was signed:"

1. Children will still be detained, and it's not clear where.

While Trump and his supporters argue that the people in question are illegal immigrants, it's important to remember that they have not actually been convicted of any crime -- and the crime in question is a misdemeanor with no discernible victim. When Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort was jailed ahead of his trial for allegedly tampering with witnesses, Trump said he was being treated like he was a member of the "mob."

If indeed pre-trial detention is a cruel punishment, we shouldn't require it for vulnerable children and families.

2. Already separated children will not be returned to their parents.

3. Some children may already be lost in the system.

4. Many children may still be separated from their parents

5. The whole thing may be struck down.

The real solution would be for the administration to back off its "zero-tolerance policy" -- which is literally a policy of intolerance. The extreme measures taken at the border are unnecessary, and the administration itself spent over a year working under a very different policy. There's no good reason for it to continue these devastating practices.

Once again, Trump created this mess--and his Executive Order doesn't solve it.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on June 20, 2018 7:18 PM.

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