After months of holding hostage hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people who came to the United States with their parents, President Trump now sets his sights on a new set of young victims to try to force passage of an immigration overhaul that has scant public support.
That is what’s at the heart of the administration’s heartless policy holding the ax of parent-child separation over the heads of asylum-seeking migrants.
Over the weekend, the President tweeted, “Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there (sic.) parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release…” He added, “[diversity visa] Lottery and Chain [migration] must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL!”
For those paying attention, this is exactly the formulation that Trump used when he pulled the DACA bait-and-switch last winter in negotiations with Congress.
The “horrible law” Trump assails this time is one his administration is gleefully enforcing — in fact, one the President is using to justify levels of inhumanity toward children previous administrations deliberately attempted to avoid.
A law signed by George W. Bush in 2008 gives the President wide discretion on what to do with minors crossing the border. Generally, the Obama administration used that power to keep migrant parents and children together in family shelters until a determination could be made on asylum or deportation, a process that can take many months.
The Trump administration is wielding it to deliberately rip families apart. Chief of Staff John Kelly declared this “zero tolerance” approach would be a “tough deterrent” to border crossings.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, standing at the Arizona border, declared: “If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law.”
A more honest, more morally upright President would at least own the consequences of his shift. Shameless as ever, Trump instead points a finger at Democrats. He hopes the images of separation and deportation will force them to swallow a host of reforms that have nothing to do with families crossing the border without permission.