Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jeremy Scahill on the Historical Context of the Trump Administration's “Pathologically Sick” Anti-Immigrant Agenda

Like many people I've been appalled by news and images of the treatment of migrants at the U.S. southern border by the policies and actions of ICE and the Trump administration, in particular the separation of children from their parents.

About this situation, Ryan Devereaux writes at The Intercept:

Hundreds of children are now being separated from their parents in courts along the border every week, with little to no system in place to reconnect those families as they pass through the criminal justice and immigration systems. With shelters for children separated from their parents rapidly hitting capacity, the Trump administration is actively exploring ways to lock up immigrant kids on U.S. military bases, including, according to a recent McClatchy report, through the use of “tent cities.” As for the adults caught in the zero tolerance push, Reuters reported last week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was beginning the transfer of roughly 1,600 detainees to a handful of federal prisons across the country.

Michelle Goldberg, meanwhile, in her unsettling New York Times op-ed, "First They Came for the Migrants," offers the following.

We still talk about American fascism as a looming threat, something that could happen if we’re not vigilant. But for undocumented immigrants, it’s already here.

There are countless horror stories about what’s happening to immigrants under Trump. Just last week, we learned that a teenager from Iowa who had lived in America since he was 3 was killed shortly after his forced return to Mexico. This month, an Ecuadorean immigrant with an American citizen wife and a pending green card application was detained at a Brooklyn military base where he’d gone to deliver a pizza; a judge has temporarily halted his deportation, but he remains locked up. Immigration officers are boarding trains and buses and demanding that passengers show them their papers. On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions decreed that most people fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence would no longer be eligible for asylum.

But what really makes Trump’s America feel like a rogue state is the administration’s policy of taking children from migrants caught crossing the border unlawfully, even if the parents immediately present themselves to the authorities to make asylum claims.

How did we get to this?

Well, the first thing to remember is that, as DeNeen Brown documents in her May 31 Washington Post commentary, the U.S. has a long and cruel history of separating children from their parents. Brown highlights a recent tweet from the African American Research Collaborative which succinctly encapsulates this history: “Official U.S. policy: Until 1865, rip African American children from their parents. From 1870s to 1970s, rip Native American children from their parents. Now, rip children of immigrants and refugees from their parents.”

In his Intercepted podcast of May 30, Jeremy Scahill also offers some historical perspective on the Trump administration's immigration policy and agenda, one that examines the culture of impunity, abuse, mistreatment, and neglect that permeated the ranks of Customs and Border Protection and ICE under the Obama administration. Such a culture, notes Scahill, “helped Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant agenda to take hold faster and have a broader impact than it would’ve if these institutions had been confronted and held accountable [under the previous administration].”

Following is an excerpt from Scahill's podcast.

There is a systematic, anti-immigrant campaign being waged in this country. And [I'm] going to get to Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and this whole authoritarian apparatus in a little while. But first let’s go over some essential context.

Back in 2014, lawyers and human rights advocates who work with undocumented immigrants began noticing a sharp uptick in reports of abuse, neglect and other mistreatment of children, while in custody of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. And the allegations were horrifying: Agents punching a child in the head, another kicking a child in the ribs, invasive and traumatic searches in the genital areas of teenage girls making them scream, threats of sexual assault, denying medical care to a pregnant teenager, using a stun gun on a boy, causing him to convulse and his eyes to roll back in his head.

In June of 2014, the ACLU and the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School filed complaints with the Department of Homeland Security. And the complaints documented the cases of 116 unaccompanied children, ranging in age from 5-years-old to 17. According to these organizations, a quarter of the children said they were physically or sexually abused. They said they’d been placed in so-called stress positions and were at times subjected to beatings by Customs officials. More than half of the kids reported receiving death threats from U.S. government agents.

DHS basically did absolutely nothing with this extremely disturbing information. So, in December of 2014, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request. And last week, they released thousands of pages of documents. What emerged from these internal documents was a pattern of atrocious abuse and neglect. These documents are all – all – from before Donald Trump was president. They describe a system that was run under the Obama administration. In fact, here is how the ACLU and University of Chicago law clinic described what was discovered through the FOIA request. In a recent report, they wrote that the records “reveal the absence of meaningful internal or external agency oversight and accountability. The federal government has failed to provide adequate safeguards and humane detention conditions for children in CBP custody. It has further failed to institute effective accountability mechanisms for government officers who abuse the vulnerable children entrusted to their care. These failures have allowed a culture of impunity to flourish within CBP, subjecting immigrant children to conditions that are too often neglectful at best and sadistic at worst.”

That was during the Obama administration. And remember, Hillary Clinton was a supporter of deporting unaccompanied minors. Speaking in 2014, just as human rights groups were raising alarm, she said: “We’ve got to do more – I started this when I was Secretary [of State] – to deal with the violence in this region, to deal with border security. But we have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”

We should also remember that Hillary Clinton played a key role in the coup in Honduras in 2009 that caused a sustained exodus that included unaccompanied children making their way to the United States illegally. And Clinton responded to this by openly saying that children should be deported, including some who fled the violence in a destabilized Honduras.

In 2014, U.S. deportations hit their highest point. Under Obama, more than 2 million people were deported. Toward the end of his presidency, Obama did try to change some of that course – he tried to stop some mass deportations – but that was ultimately stifled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Remember, the ACLU said that during the Obama administration the failure to stop the abuses being meted out by Customs officials, “allowed a culture of impunity to flourish” and that it was “too often neglectful at best and sadistic at worst.”

Fast forward to today: Donald Trump is president. The racist anti-immigrant Jeff Sessions is the attorney general. And one of the so-called adults in the room, Chief of Staff John Kelly, is an infamous xenophobe and a radical extremist on immigration. We know that from his time running U.S. Southern Command. John Kelly made no bones about his support for deporting children, which he called, “the name of the game to a large degree.” In an interview with NPR, Kelly said, “The children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.”

The tone and policy on immigration under the Trump administration is a frightening abomination. It is anti-human, not to mention anti-human rights. ICE now has a commander in chief who openly advocates violence against undocumented immigrants and Trump’s obsession with a tiny group of gang members who are in the U.S. legally and illegally is really a thinly veiled attack on immigrants in general. "These aren’t people. These are animals," Trump recently said.

Trump can hide behind the technicality of saying: Oh, I was just talking about MS-13! But we know. We know what he really thinks, because he has told us: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. . . . They send the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them, they don’t want to take care of them. Why should they?”

Donald Trump presents a set of threats that we did not see under Obama. He presents threats we may well not have seen under a President Hillary Clinton. But at the same time, it’s a mistake to not understand how we got here on immigration. Part of it is the racism, the bigotry, the hatred that fuels Trump and his real supporters. And it’s terrifying.

But we also have to recognize that powerful Democrats have also been terrible on issues impacting undocumented immigrants. The culture of impunity, of abuse, of mistreatment, of neglect that permeates the ranks of Customs and Border Protection and ICE spread under Obama. They weren’t held accountable when they could’ve been and they should’ve been. And that helped Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant agenda to take hold faster and have a broader impact than it would’ve if these institutions had been confronted and held accountable.

Under Trump, it has now become official policy to literally rip children from the arms of their parents when they cross the border to seek asylum. This is not MS-13 and their kids. This is people fleeing political violence that, in some cases, has been aided, encouraged or caused by U.S. policy. They are separating children from their parents and sending them into detention.

And the Trump administration knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s deliberate. It’s done with intent. The point is to punish people who flee violence, to send them a message that we will shatter your family – and probably abuse your children – if you dare seek life for you and your kids. In fact, we are going to prosecute you as a criminal if you do. In one case, there was a 53-week-old infant who was taken to a court hearing without a parent.

It’s sick. Absolutely, pathologically sick.

– Jeremy Scahill
Excerpted from “White Fear: As the GOP Veers Toward Fascism,
Establishment Democrats Face a Grassroots Insurgency

May 30, 2018

NEXT: Opposing the Trump Administration's
Inhumane Treatment of Immigrant Families

Related Off-site Links:
Anguish at Southwest Border as More Immigrant Children are Separated from Parents – Suzanne Gamboa and Daniella Silva (NBC News, May 22, 2018).
Taking Immigrant Kids from Their Parents Shows Contempt for Families – Dr. Reshem Agarwal and Dr. Marsha Griffin (Houston Chronicle, June 3, 2018).
We Must Protect Migrant Children from Abuse by U.S. Border Patrol – Claudia Flores (Chicago Tribune, May 24, 2018).
“Barbaric”: America’s Cruel History of Separating Children from Their Parents – DeNeen L. Brown (The Washington Post, May 31, 2018).
U.S. Lost Track of 1,500 Immigrant Children, But Says It's Not “Legally Responsible” – Dakin Andone (CNN, May 28, 2018).
From Families Split to “Lost” Children, the Stories Behind the Alarming U.S. Immigration Headlines – Annalisa Merelli (Quartz, May 29, 2018).
Yes, Donald Trump Is Making White People More Hateful – Joshua Holland (The Nation, May 2, 2018).
The Trump Effect: New study Connects White American Intolerance and Support for Authoritarianism – Noah Berlatsky (NBC News, May 27, 2018).
Taking Migrant Children From Parents Is Illegal, U.N. Tells U.S. – Nick Cumming-Bruce (The New York Times, June 5, 2018).
Over 10,000 Migrant Children Are Now in U.S. Government Custody at 100 Shelters in 14 States – Michelle Mark (Business Insider, May 30, 2018).
Trump Has Quietly Cut Legal Aid for Migrant Kids Separated from Parents – Meredith Hoffman (Vice, May 31, 2018).
ICE Is Sending a Message to the World’s Asylum Seekers: The U.S. Is No Place of Refuge – John Washington (The Nation, May 29, 2018).
“It’s Horrendous”: The Heartache of a Migrant Boy Taken from His Father – Miriam Jordan (The New York Times, June 7, 2018).
For This Mother and Daughter, Separated a Year Ago at the Southern Border, Trump's “Zero-tolerance” Policy Isn’t New – Ashley Cleek (PRI, June 6, 2018).
Trump Continues to Enable Cruelty and Abuse – Michael B. Hamer (Michael-In-Norfolk, June 1, 2018).
40 Democratic Senators Call on Trump to End Family Separations at the Border – Noah Lanard (Mother Jones, June 6, 2018).
Jeff Sessions’ Deceitful Spin on Family Separation – Jenny Samuels (ACLU, June 7, 2018).
Judge Says Yes to Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration Family Separation Policy – Joel Rose (NPR, June 7, 2018).
1,358 Children and Counting — Trump's “Zero Tolerance” Border Policy Is Separating Families at Staggering Rates – Ryan Devereaux (The Intercept, June 8, 2018).
“Children Are Being Used as a Tool” in Trump’s Effort to Stop Border Crossings – Liz Goodwin (The Boston Globe, June 10, 2018).
The Language of the Trump Administration Is the Language of Domestic Violence – Jessica Winter (The New Yorker, June 11, 2018).
First They Came for the Migrants – Michelle Goldberg (The New York Times, June 11, 2018).
On the Border, a Discouraging New Message for Asylum Seekers: Wait – Simon Romero and Miriam Jordan (The New York Times, June 12, 2018).
Catholic Leaders Denounce Sessions’s Asylum Decision: “We Have Truly Lost Our Moral Compass” – Kevin Clarke (America, June 13, 2018).
“Despicable”: Outrage Over Trump's Plans for Tent Cities to Imprison Child Migrants – Julia Conley (Common Dreams, June 13, 2018).

UPDATES: Seizing Children From Parents at the Border Is Immoral. Here’s What We Can Do About It – The Editorial Board (The New York Times, June 14, 2018).
Children's Detention Center Tour Reveals Trump Mural That Would Look "In Place In a Banana Republic" – Julia Conley (Common Dreams, June 14, 2018).
Department of Homeland Security Say 2,000 Children Separated at Border – Tal Kopan (CNN, June 15, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
No Room for Them
Something to Think About – December 25, 2016
Fasting, Praying, and Walking for Immigration Reform
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Quote of the Day – March 12, 2018
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
Global Condemnation for Trump's Latest Ignorant and Racist Comments
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as U.S. President

Image 1: A U.S. Border Patrol agent detains young migrants in 2015 in La Grulla, TX. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
Image 2: Photographer unknown.
Image 3: Men from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras being detained last week by Border Patrol officers north of Penitas, TX. (Photo: Lynsey Addario/The New York Times)
Image 4: A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. (Photo: Getty Images)
Image 5: A child from Honduras watches a movie at a United States Border Patrol detention center in McAllen, TX, in 2014. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
Image 6: An ICE detention facility in the U.S. (Photo: The Los Angeles Times)

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