ECLECTIC RANT: Trump’s Cruel Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy in a Nutshell

Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday June 19, 2018 - 09:19:00 PM

In April 2018, the Trump administration introduced a "zero-tolerance” immigration policy calling for the prosecution of all individuals who illegally enter the U.S.. This policy has the effect of separating parents from their children when they enter the country together, because parents are referred for prosecution and the children are placed in the custody of a sponsor, such as a relative or foster home, or held in a shelter. The Trump administration’s hope is that harsh treatment would deter illegal immigration. 

When an adult is referred for prosecution, a child traveling with the adult is turned over to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. That agency is responsible for placing the child with a sponsor as the child’s immigration case is resolved. Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents due to the zero-tolerance policy and reports indicate that federal authorities have lost track of nearly 1,500 immigrant children in their custody. 

A family seeking asylum does not necessarily make them illegal. Asylum seekers have a right to due process. The Due Process Clause, which the Supreme Court has ruled applies to “all persons” on U.S. soil, prohibits the government from separating a parent from her child absent the most compelling reasons. In addition, the zero-tolerance practices run counter to the Flores Settlement Agreement of 1997 currently binding on U.S. immigration services. It states, “The INS [now USCIS, ICE, and CBP] treats, and shall continue to treat, all minors in its custody with dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.” 

In a recent ruling, Sessions said that immigration judges should not necessarily consider claims of domestic abuse or gang violence as a basis for asylum seekers, absent other evidence that someone has suffered persecution as a member of a social group protected by law — a ruling that establishes a major new roadblock for thousands of Central Americans trying to seek refuge in the U.S. 

The American Psychological Association sent an open letter to President Trump calling for an immediate change to his administration’s immigration policy. 

“Families fleeing their homes to seek sanctuary in the United States are already under a tremendous amount of stress. Sudden and unexpected family separation, such as separating families at the border, can add to that stress, leading to emotional trauma in children.” 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the Bible to defend the policy, saying that the Apostle Paul issued a “wise command” to obey the government. What would Jesus say about Sessions using the Bible to justify official cruelty to children? 

After coming under intense criticism for his administration's zero-tolerance policy, Trump then blamed the policy on a law enacted by Democrats, claiming that his opponents in Congress are blocking attempts to fix the immigration system to get rid of the “horrible law.” Turns out, however, the policy of separating families trying to cross the border illegally isn't a law in itself. Instead, it stems from a a “zero-tolerance” policy advocated by the Justice Department under Sessions, which calls for stricter adherence to existing laws.  

Actually, going back to the presidency of George W. Bush, family units were hardly ever detained, but rather processed and released with a notice to appear at immigration court. this policy was designed to offer noncriminal immigrants a way to earn temporary status in the U.S. while awaiting a ruling on whether they would be granted asylum. The “breaking up” of families is a Trump/Sessions policy and Trump is lying that it is the Democrats’ fault.  

Unfortunately, according to a recent Daily Beast poll conducted June 14-15, 46% of republicans agreed with the following statement, "It is appropriate to separate undocumented immigrant parents from their children when they cross the border in order to discourage others from crossing the border illegally.” So far Trump is successfully playing to his base, using his administration’s inhumane zero-tolerance immigration policy as leverage to get his wall and to help republicans maintain their majorities in Congress. 

Will Trump's strategy work? Stay tuned.