Judith McCarrick: Our country’s future relies on embracing those escaping brutality
July 22, 2018
In response to Cynthia Hren's June 26 opinion piece, "Families Belong Together," Federal District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered U.S. border authorities to reunite separated families within 30 days. Children younger than 5 were to be reunited within 14 days. As many as 3,000 children have been separated from their mothers and fathers.
The Trump administration has fallen short of obeying this order and their request for additional time has been denied. As of writing this today only 57 children are back with their parents.
That migrant parents have broken immigration laws to cross our borders is untrue. Attorney General Sessions has made it nearly impossible for legal asylum-seeking families to be processed at legal ports of entry. He further issued a ruling denying claims from seekers of protection from gang violence and abusive spouses.
No law mandates that children and parents should be separated at the border. Session's "zero tolerance" is policy, not law; there never has been such a law. The Obama administration rarely separated families and then only when it suspected a child would be used for trafficking, or the accompanying adult had a criminal record. The "catch and release" policy of the Obama administration applied only to children and asylum-seekers.
The Trump/Sessions zero tolerance policy was not connected to an immigrant's legal status. Zero tolerance was applied to all immigrants indiscriminately, including asylum-seekers legally trying to enter the U.S. It is only a misdemeanor to cross the border illegally, and many immigrants grew exhausted from waiting days if not weeks to seek legal asylum, only to be arrested and separated from their children.
Hren claims the children who have been taken from their parents are "held in foster homes and similar quality care facilities." This assertion is false and there are witnesses and photos to prove it. Sen. Jeff Merkley tried to visit a facility where children were being warehoused and was not even allowed inside during his first, scheduled visit to Brownsville, Texas. Subsequently he found the "foster home" he had tried to visit was a former Walmart, fitted with locked cages where children were forced to sleep on cement floors.
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In dozens of other cases, children have been flown all over the country to similar buildings where air conditioning was turned on high, and children as young as two years were denied even minimal care. These awful conditions are easily fact-checked and were witnessed by dozens of horrified lawmakers and reporters.
Meanwhile, private immigrant prisons are making a small fortune with the blessing of the Trump administration. ICE spends more than $2 billion a year on immigrant detention through private detention centers, all paid for by U.S. taxpayers. The GEO Group, one of the nation's largest private prison companies, struck gold with zero tolerance. ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service already pay GEO $32 million a year to house, feed and provide medical care for a thousand detainees.
Hren wrote "President Trump signed an executive order to stop the long-standing practice of separating children from their parents who entered our country illegally and is reuniting families today."
Let's be clear. Public outrage and a court order are the only reasons that Trump agreed to stop zero tolerance. Nothing in his executive order called for the reunification of families. The practice of zero tolerance is not "long-standing." It was initiated by his administration.
The Grass Valley rally held on June 30 was supported by nearly 300 locals and opposed by approximately 15 as reported in YubaNet.com. At that rally I saw the signs, heard the chants, and watched the crowd swell as more and more residents of our area demanded that immigrant families be reunited.
I, too, am concerned about how and why migrant families arrive at our borders. I am doubly concerned that they have been turned away from seeking asylum because of the Trump administration's inhumane policies.
Our country's future depends not on an impractical wall costing billions, but on a sane policy that allows immigrants escaping from brutality to enter our country and take their places as contributing members of our communities.
Judith McCarrick is a member of the Immigration Action Alliance with the Indivisible Women Nevada County.
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