The headlines this morning are blaring that Donald Trump lost, caved, and gave in on his Dickensian child separation policy as he was "forced" to scramble to come up with an executive order that stopped the policy. Politico has Trump caving in a "24-hour about-face".
In the face of protests at airports across the country opposing his restrictive travel ban last year, President Donald Trump defended the executive order as a necessary protection from terrorists.
When he was confronted with bipartisan outrage and criticism from his own aides after condemning violence on “both sides” of a white nationalist rally and counterprotest in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, the president dug in his heels.
But on Wednesday, facing what has grown into the biggest moral and political crisis of his administration, the president whose default position is to double down, simply caved in.
Sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and embattled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump signed an executive order temporarily halting his policy of separating children from their parents at the border.
“The border’s just as tough,” Trump told reporters. “But we do want to keep families together.”
But it took only hours for them to figure out that the "cave" wasn't the reality of what happened Wednesday. At all.
President Donald Trump’s new executive order to keep migrant families together leaves his administration plenty of wiggle room to keep them apart.
The most urgent question is what will happen to thousands of children already separated from their parents under the administration’s “zero tolerance” border enforcement strategy.
Under that policy — fully implemented in early May — all suspected border crossers are referred for federal prosecution, with no exceptions for parents and asylum seekers. During a nearly five-week period in May and June, federal authorities separated more than 2,300 children from their parents at the southwest border.
“They’ve got to go find the parents and reunite the kids with the parents,” said one former Obama and George W. Bush administration official. “No aspect of this is easy, but they created this mess and they have to go back and fix it.”
But the executive order contains no language addressing how these children will be reunited with their parents, and Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, said Wednesday no changes are in store to the agency’s normal procedures.
“For the minors currently in the unaccompanied alien children program," Wolfe told POLITICO, "the sponsorship process will proceed as usual."
But Trump got the headlines he wanted: that he "ended" child separation and that America can go back to watching Netflix. And now Trump has gotten what he wanted all along: an indefinite detention system for undocumented immigrants crossing the border.
For weeks, President Donald Trump and his administration claimed that they would prefer to keep families together in immigration detention — but had no choice but to separate them at the US-Mexico border so parents could be prosecuted for illegal entry.
Now, Trump’s executive order — which some in the press are reporting as a “reversal” or “relenting” on family separation — simply directs the administration to do the thing they said they couldn’t do: keep children along with their parents in immigration detention while the parents are prosecuted, and while the family’s immigration case is resolved. The Trump administration is hoping this will result in their speedy deportation, but if not, it’s now willing to detain the family indefinitely.
The executive order is titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” and that’s not just wishful thinking. The Trump administration will need Congress to act quickly to validate the decision to keep families detained indefinitely. If Congress fails to act, it’s unlikely that the federal judiciary is going to allow this order to stand in its current form — because it appears to violate the 1997 Flores settlement that the administration cited as the reason it couldn’t detain families indefinitely to begin with.
The order doesn’t require Trump to stop separating families at the border — but it probably will end wide-scale family separation.
The Trump administration always said it wouldn’t waste the money and time to separate families if it could only detain them together. Now it’s going ahead and doing that, and waiting for forgiveness instead of asking for permission.
This is what Trump wanted all along: a bill he could sign that funded both his wall and these detention facilities, and he's presented the fact that he's willing to go back to the alternative of child separation. He's going to soon start saying that if Congress doesn't give him the money to "keep these families together" then he'll have no choice but to separate them again.
Now the plan will be for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to put an immigration bill up that gives Trump the money to build these facilities, and then put the pressure on Democrats to go along, otherwise Dems will be "responsible" for child separation.
That's hogwash, of course. Trump is 100% responsible for it. But he's now taking families hostage as well as children in order to get what he wants on immigration. And now he can say that the policy he wanted all along, indefinite detention of migrants, is more humane than child separation. See, he's the "good guy" now!
No, the real issue here is Trump and Jeff Sessions and their zero-tolerance policy at the border, announced back in April. This is the real outrage we should be fighting, it's immoral, inhumane, and illegal. People are being detained at the border before they can even seek to apply for asylum. Instead, Trump has shifted the argument and the outrage to child separation after families are detained, and yesterday shifted back to mass zero-tolerance detainment as seemingly more humane by comparison.
Trump lost this battle, but he lost it on purpose and in such a way that it gives him the opportunity to win the war. It's a classic abuser tactic, and I'm afraid that the rest of us are the ones who will really end up caving as zero-tolerance at the border becomes zero-tolerance inside the United States for undocumented immigrants.
I've long said that only logistical reasons are keeping Trump from rounding up and detaining millions, and that infrastructure is now being built with Trump holding migrants hostage in order to get more resources from Congress. This is proceeding as planned, and Trump's "cave" yesterday is an integral part of it.
Trump signed an executive order yesterday in the hopes that people would move on:— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) June 21, 2018
There are still babies in cages
There are still 2500 kids who have been separated from their parents
There is no plan to fix any of this
Things are as bad today as they were yesterday.
This is still a humanitarian crisis of Trump's creation.
Immigrant children as young as 14 housed at a juvenile detention center in Virginia say they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells.
The abuse claims against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center near Staunton, Virginia, are detailed in federal court filings that include a half-dozen sworn statements from Latino teens jailed there for months or years. Multiple detainees say the guards stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads.
“Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me,” said a Honduran immigrant who was sent to the facility when he was 15 years old. “Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn’t really move. ... They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes; you can see through it. But you feel suffocated with the bag on.”
In addition to the children’s first-hand, translated accounts in court filings, a former child-development specialist who worked inside the facility independently told The Associated Press this week that she saw kids there with bruises and broken bones they blamed on guards. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to publicly discuss the children’s cases.
In court filings, lawyers for the detention facility have denied all allegations of physical abuse.
Many of the children were sent there after U.S. immigration authorities accused them of belonging to violent gangs, including MS-13. President Donald Trump has repeatedly cited gang activity as justification for his crackdown on illegal immigration.
We have got to take Congress back in November.