What was that all about?
After months of defending his policy that separated children from their illegally immigrating parents, after searing images of crying children being held in chain-link cages were met with howls of worldwide disapproval, President Trump declared, “We want to keep families together. It’s very important.” Then he signed an executive order which ended the separation practice.
While no more migrant families will be torn apart, there’s no indication just how or even if the more than 2,300 children already held – some sent as far away as New York, Illinois and Michigan – will be reunited with their parents who now face deportation.
Here’s my dime-store opinion of what happened here. President Trump is a carrot-and-stick kind of guy. If he doesn’t get what he wants, the stick comes out first. In this case, he was openly frustrated by not being able to a) get his $25 billion border wall built and b) control the ever-increasing flow of illegal immigration along our southern border. His bully businessman personality came to the fore when he decided to institute a super strict, zero-tolerance policy that detained every person coming across that border.
Beginning a few months ago, anyone trying to enter the United States was held and closely scrutinized. If they were found to be an illegal entrant, they were arrested and put in lockup. Then came the dilemma. What to do with their children?
I really wonder if the president thought this through. He must have realized some migrants would come with kids. Surely someone in the White House warned him that when an undocumented immigrant is arrested they automatically go into a federal prison and that there is a 2008 law which says children cannot be kept in such a facility.
Did President Trump just not care what happened to those kids? Or did his advisers sell him a bill of goods about their fate? If the president was fully informed, are we to deduce that while he was celebrating Father’s Day on the golf course he was OK knowing that thousands of migrant kids were wailing for the parents they feared they would never see again, housed in a place where caretakers were instructed not to touch, hug or otherwise comfort them? And what did the president think when mental health experts warned that such treatment of children can result in toxic brain stress, which weakens brain architecture and can cause irreparable damage?
I feel ashamed about what has happened to those children through absolutely no fault of their own.
But some perspective, please. This current embarrassing situation has been a long time in the making. Members of Congress and past presidents – both Democrat and Republican – are all to blame for the horrible mess that is our nation’s immigration policy. It boils down to a fundamental failure of leadership over several decades.
Now it has fallen to Trump to try to counter the shocking spike in illegal immigration along the southern border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection stats from October 2017 to May 2018 show a massive 329 percent increase in the number of unaccompanied children entering the United States and an enormous 435 percent jump in the number of so-called “family units.”
Trump is right when he insists it is Congress that makes the laws. It is clear our national security depends on vigilance at our borders. New, tough legislation is desperately needed.
And, let’s face it, we citizens have contributed to the problem by not insisting more forcefully that something be done to better control and keep track of illegal immigration into our country. We may have been blinded by the altruistic ideals inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” or by the philanthropic idea of open borders. Whatever the reason for the mass blindness, it has led us to this moment.
Sadly, we hear next to nothing about trying to tackle the two-fold root cause of the illegal immigration problem. First, citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico are fleeing ruthless, murdering drug gangs that often conduct business right under the noses of bribery-blind law enforcement officials. Around $2.6 billion of our tax dollars go to aid programs every year that are supposed to help restore peace and prosperity in Central America. Yet, the violence there seems never-ending. Where has all that money gone?
Second, drug trafficking is nurtured, in large part, by addicted Americans and their insatiable appetite for illegal drugs. Until we figure out a way to diminish demand or make the drugs they crave legal, thereby eliminating the profit motive for gangs, the exodus toward America will continue.
In his often obnoxious and ham-fisted way, President Trump is trying to get a handle on the immigration problem that so many before him allowed to fester. We can do better than we have done so far, but that would require cooperation and courage in Washington. Dare we hope?
www.DianeDimond.com; e-mail to Diane@DianeDimond.com.