By Prarthana Mitra
As massive outrage mounted against US president Donald Trump’s policy to separate migrant children from their families at the US-Mexico border, he reversed course and signed an executive order to “keep families together” earlier on Wednesday.
Expressing his xenophobic disdain for “illegal immigrants” from south of the border, the announcement did not fail to clarify that the president will not relent in his hardline approach and “zero-tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute anyone who crosses the border unauthorised.
Here’s what happened
In the weeks preceding the executive order, heinous details have come to light that suggests that the horror show at the border went beyond tearing families apart.
Children were put in cage-like detention centers nicknamed “tender age shelters”, with very little press access. A recent Huffington Post report claims that juvenile refugees were habitually administered psychotropic drugs without parental consent.
Shocking visuals and accounts of detained children have come to light. They are reminiscent of concentration camps and have made for a rousing call against the decision to split up families. Immigrant children as young as 14 were housed at a Virginia juvenile detention centre, where they claim they were handcuffed, physically abused, locked in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells.
In fact, things had gotten so out of hand by Monday, that homeland security chief, Kirstjen Nielsen’s briefing that day bordered on incoherent and shifty arguments that vacillated between blaming Congress for the situation and denying that any such situation existed.
Let’s back up a bit
Trump’s strongly anti-immigration stance was first manifest in October 2016 when he repealed the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme that granted legal citizenship status to all second-generation immigrants, also known as “Dreamers.”
Trump’s initial bill aimed to tighten asylum standards, slash legal immigration by a quarter, do away with most family-based immigration, require Dreamers to apply for their status every three years, and fund The Wall. But he has agreed to sign the compromise bill which would do all of those things, and maybe compromise on family-based immigration and allow some Dreamers to apply for green cards. But more importantly, Trump probably seeks to effectively replace family separation with indefinite family detention now.
Why you should care
In a rally he attended earlier yesterday, the President praised Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents perpetuating the flagrant abuse. He returned to his campaign message based on the number of American people killed by undocumented immigrants, which research has contradicted time and again. Trump even argued that the controversy over family separation was an attempt by the Democrats to distract from Hillary Clinton.
So even if Trump has moved back an inch, the crisis at the border is far from over. There is still no policy in place to reunite the detained children with their families, as hundreds of immigrant parents await trials without lawyers or have already been imprisoned.
Dr. Colleen Craft, head of American Academy of Paediatrics, criticised the government, calling this “a form of child abuse” in her interview with NowThis. This segregation policy resets human civilisation and progress back to the time European colonisers did the same thing, when they first arrived in America. They separated the members of the indigenous tribes, and later repeated the practice with African families.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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