CHICAGO – Last week, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled that the Trump administration must restart the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which temporarily allows young undocumented immigrants to work and removes the threat of deportation.
Bates essentially declared that Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, which runs the program, never meaningfully explained in what way DACA was “unlawful” and “unconstitutional.” He also characterized DHS efforts to prove the DACA program’s illegitimacy as a “hodgepodge of illogical or post hoc policy assertions…”
Though the judge perfectly described the administration’s general modus operandi, there’s little doubt about why the Trump administration moved to shut down DACA: to inflict pain and suffering on immigrants.
Last September, after Trump announced he would end DACA and gave Congress six months … to enact permanent legislation, immigrant-rights activists and advocacy organizations called the move “evil,” “cruel” and “the worst decision Trump has made.”
At that time, I wrote: “We truly have lost our humanity when we give in to hyperbole and refer to an opposing party as ‘evil’ and ‘monstrous’ – even when leaders like Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, declare – falsely – that DACA recipients are by and large gang members and drug smugglers.” I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I still believe that hyperbole is harmful to sincere debate. But I never imagined that a mere nine months later we’d see the Trump administration systematically separate parents from their kids at the border, house children in cages and force toddlers to speak for themselves in immigration court hearings.
Evil and cruel is putting it lightly, especially when you consider that more than 700 families were still separated when the July 26 deadline arrived for reuniting approximately 3,000 children with their families.
News reports alleged that some parents had been deported and subsequently lost in the government record-keeping morass. Other parents were released in the U.S. but were also not able to be located. A few parents reportedly “declined” to be reunited – some because they’d rather be separated and have their children be safe in the U.S. than face the violence and economic uncertainty they’d fled. But the American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a complaint alleging that the government coerced migrant parents into unwittingly waiving their rights to family reunification.
And it just gets more evil and cruel from there.
ProPublica published two separate investigations of immigrant youth shelters detailing allegations of physical and emotional abuse, threats of rape and deportation, inappropriate sexual contact by their caretakers and incidents in which children were lost on field trips.
The Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law filed documents in court alleging that some immigrants and their young children were detained in inhumanely cold conditions, with no access to clean water or sufficient bathrooms and food that was often rotten or too frozen to consume.
The New York Times reported on a Virginia juvenile detention center for immigrants in which teens as young as 14 with documented emotional, behavioral and psychological disorders allege being stripped to their underwear and strapped to metal restraint chairs – with some having their heads fully covered inside mesh hoods – for the safety of the guards.
A federal judge ordered U.S. government officials in Texas to stop administering psychotropic medication to migrant children without either their parent’s consent or a court order, unless there was a “dire emergency.”
Meanwhile, the consensus of the pediatric medical community is that all of this tumult – some would say torture – will almost surely cause irreparable harm to these children… And in a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on family separations, it came out that administration officials were forewarned about the trauma its actions would have on kids.
Make no mistake, the reason the Trump administration wanted to revoke DACA was no doubt to ensure that its beneficiaries, who have lived here nearly all of their lives, felt the same kind of grinding fear and were exposed to the same horrors as the youngest and oldest migrants making it to the border today.
The Trump administration has until Aug. 23 to appeal the federal court’s ruling or it will have to restart DACA. Stay tuned to see if it will prevail in its campaign to inflict the maximum evil and cruelty on immigrant families.