Virtually all Democrats and independents and significant numbers of Republicans have joined the mainstream media and much of the right-wing media in condemning the new U.S. policy of separating children from their families at the border no matter what the circumstances. Even evangelical celebrities like Franklin Graham (Billy’s boy) who have made excuses for the past immoralities of Trump have come out against breaking up families. Interestingly enough, condemnation by religious leaders and Republicans intensified after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders declared that scriptures demanded harsh treatment of children whose parents are fleeing their countries.
Yet if Facebook and Twitter are any indication, a significant number of people are buying into the argument that those seeking asylum from natural or man-made disasters are breaking the law, and that’s what happens to criminals: they lose their families. This anti-immigration faction buys into the brand new policy that no one should enter the United States as a refugee. One heartless Facebooker even reasoned that we don’t let incarcerated prisoners stay with their children and this situation was the same thing, equating convicted felons with victims of forces beyond their control.
In her widely condemned news conference, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen played into the fears and hatreds of those voters who want to shut our borders tight and punish those who try to enter as harshly as possible. Her statement that many drug cartel members rent children to make a better case for entry is absurd. Ever since the Clinton Administration started extreme vetting of refugees and other immigrants, vetting that was quite thorough then and enhanced by Bush II and Obama, U.S. immigration officials can usually pretty quickly ferret out the small numbers of fake families. The proof of that fact is that for decades, study after study shows that crime rates among immigrants—legal and illegal—are much lower than for the native-born population, for both violent and non-violent offenses.
Thus Nielsen builds on the network of lies about immigration that Trump and his supporters have spewed for the past few years. Despite what they say, we do not have an epidemic of violence by immigrant gangs. Hordes of criminals and low lifes are not banging down the gates to get in. But Trump, Sessions, Nielsen and others keep repeating these lies and using them as the excuse for unnecessarily cruel actions such as ending DACA and ripping children from their families at the border.
On both DACA and refuge families, Trump has told the same set of lies repeatedly: 1) A law Democrats passed forced him to do it; 2) He hates it and wants to see it end; 3) But it will take the cooperation of the Democrats and they won’t give it. What a mess of lies we have here! It was Trump alone, perhaps with the urging of racist Sessions and self-loathing Jewish Nazi Stephen Miller, who decided to end DACA. Trump alone who approved the brand-new policy to separate children and parents at the border, even in the case of refugees. Finally, with Republicans controlling every branch of government, no Democrat is needed to pass a law prohibiting separating families at U.S. borders or giving the Dreamers a path to citizenship. What they present as facts are lies. Their logic is a lie.
But the supporters ignore these mendacious arguments, because they believe the main lie: that those entering are primarily bad people who will take our jobs away and that the United States should no longer welcome people fleeing state or gang violence and natural disasters.
The breaking up of families—so similar to Nazi actions against Jews in concentration camps—may symbolize a turning point in what Americans will stomach to protect themselves from their own unrealistic fears. Remember that, when the horrifying news of the Bush II torture gulag made the news, survey after survey showed that more than 50% of all Americans were okay with torture for matters of national security. Their fears and their blood-thirst for revenge after 9/11 spoke so loudly that they didn’t hear the quiet fact that torture doesn’t work. Maybe we should be proud that only 27% of people (but 55% of Republicans) agree with the Trump policy of breaking up families, while 66% are against it. Likewise, 67% of Americans want to give Dreamers citizenship and another 8% want them to stay without becoming citizens. We may approve of torture, but not of ripping families apart.
At this tragic moment, that is small solace for a nation ashamed of itself and aching with the pain of bystanders who feel helpless to relieve the suffering of others.