Through an inhumane and dubious interpretation of immigration law, the U.S. government is currently separating innocent families at the border and locking up children in detention centers. For once, the Nazi comparison so over-used in Internet debates seems terribly apt. Brianna Rennix explains the situation in “Understanding the Administration’s Monstrous Immigration Policies” in the leftist political journal Current Affairs:
Children are NOT being taken from their parents simply because the government wishes to prosecute their parents for illegal entry and the children cannot accompany them to jail. That makes it sound like these separations are simply incidental to a separate enforcement policy that the government decided to pursue.
The reality is actually just the opposite. The Trump administration’s decision to prosecute parents for illegal entry was taken in order to create an excuse to separate mothers from children. As I’ve said, the irritating problem the Trump administration has been struggling to overcome, with reference to the many thousands of bona fide asylum seekers that come to the border, is that a) lots of them are moms with kids, b) kids can’t legally be kept in more restrictive custody than absolutely necessary, and c) there is a federal court decision, legally binding on Trump administration, that states that when you release children from detention who are detained alongside their mothers, the mothers have to be released too.
This is what Trump and Sessions have meant when they have talked cryptically about “loopholes” that are “forcing” them to release asylum-seekers into the interior. There are lots of asylum-seeking moms that the government would otherwise have preferred to have kept locked up in hidden border facilities, without any meaningful ability to recruit counsel, for the entire duration of their cases. But because these moms had a child detained with them, they couldn’t do this.
Separating kids from moms thus serves two purposes. One is deterrence. It’s designed to send a gruesome message to women contemplating fleeing Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico: If you come here looking for protection, we will take your child away from you…
The second and perhaps even more critical purpose of family separation is to ensure that moms who are still brave enough and desperate enough to come here will lose their cases. There are not nearly enough competent immigration lawyers along the border to meet the needs of all the people who come to ask for asylum. In the past, when the government was forced to release moms with kids, these families could go settle anywhere in the country they chose, and have their case adjudicated in the local immigration court in their new place of residence. Because they weren’t detained, they had the ability to actually recruit a lawyer to help them. And a lot of them settled in parts of the country, like California or New York, where the immigration judges actually, you know, sort of care about people not being murdered, as opposed to border judges, who are mostly looking for any colorable reason to say “no” to a case. Now that the government is starting to separate moms from kids on a large scale, it is possible we will start to see moms detained in border facilities for the entire duration of their cases. They will be unrepresented and facing unfriendly judges. They will lose.
I think it is important to understand that these family separations are not just a byproduct of brute over-prosecution of “illegal” entry. Rather, they are part of a concerted strategy to allow the government to avoid granting people asylum, and to circumvent the courts’ few, limited attempts to legally impose humane limits on their treatment of asylum-seekers.
Rennix points us to the New York Times’ June 14 staff editorial that includes a list of ways to fight these horrific policies. Some options:
Find out who represents you in Washington, and let them know you want the practice of family separation to end. Ask them to support bills that will help reunited children already taken from their parents and also prohibit future removals. Those include the Senate’s HELP Separated Children Act and Keep Families Together Act…
The proposed Fair Day in Court for Kids Act would require the government to appoint counsel to unaccompanied children, and it’s important to ask Congress to support its passage. Until then, there are several nonprofits providing vital free legal aid that need financial support: The Texas Civil Rights Project; the Florence Project in Arizona; and Kids in Need of Defense and The Young Center, which work nationwide. Lawyers might also consider lending their expertise. The Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas is helping families with supplies and humanitarian relief.
Massachusetts voters should also keep tabs on the progress of the Safe Communities Act, which passed the state Senate and will have to be voted on by the House before the fiscal year ends June 30. This bill would prevent state and local law enforcement from being deputized to support Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. Call your representative today! Luckily, House Ways & Means Chair Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez is a supporter.
State and local police should use their limited resources to fight crime, not immigrant community members and their families. The bill would bar police from arresting or detaining a person solely for federal immigration enforcement purposes, or participating in U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigations or raids based solely on immigration status. It would also prohibit agreements to deputize state and local officers as federal immigration agents, co-opting and taking away resources from local communities…
The bill ensures that constitutional principles are upheld equally for citizens and non-citizens, by requiring a warrant to arrest a person on behalf of ICE. It also requires notice to immigrant detainees of their legal rights – in a language they understand….
[The bill] prohibits Massachusetts law enforcement agencies and the Registry of Motor Vehicles from providing information to any federal registry program based on religion, national origin or other protected characteristics.
Finally, if you’re having trouble deciding which advocacy group to support, ActBlue will distribute your one-click donations to eight of the top organizations working to protect kids at the border, including the ACLU and United We Dream.