After days of growing outrage over migrant children being torn from their families at the southern U.S. border, President Donald Trump swooped in Wednesday to fix the problem and save the day.
At least, that's what the president wants Americans to think.
In reality, Trump’s Executive Order – “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation” – is little more than a publicity stunt, aimed at quelling the unrest and criticism that followed his “zero-tolerance” immigration policy which led to family separations in the first place.
Trump implemented an inhumane policy and now wants credit for ending the suffering of immigrant children and families.
We should not buy into his game – not only because the order doesn’t do what he claims it does, but because the policy was intended from its inception to use the traumatization of children and parents as a deterrent to future asylum-seekers.
President Trump created the child-separation crisis when he imposed a “zero tolerance” policy for border crossings. Where the Obama administration detained families ahead of civil proceedings conducted in immigration court, the Trump administration decided to pursue criminal prosecution of immigrants and asylum-seekers, arresting parents and separating them from their children, with the explicit notion that the trauma could serve as a deterrent to others who might seek asylum.
Trump started this fire and now wants credit for putting it out. He wants the American people to see the “very compassionate” order he signed as an end to the issue, but it is nothing of the sort.
What does it do?
It leaves the “zero-tolerance” policy intact, meaning all individuals crossing the border between ports of entry still will be criminally prosecuted, but orders the Department of Homeland Security to keep families together while in custody, which could be months.
Because keeping families together in this manner is currently illegal, the order also directs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to challenge the 1997 Flores ruling dictating, which prohibits the federal government from holding children for more than 20 days.
You don’t have to look too closely to see the outline of a clear—and cynical—political gambit. President Trump signs an executive order ending child separation, but to carry it out, officials violate a federal court order. That requires a judge to step in and admonish the administration, after which Trump pulls back, resuming family separation with the help of an easy scapegoat.
Even should the administration succeed in skirting the Flores ruling, families will remain in federal custody for untold amounts of time; asylum seekers will still be deemed dangers to our country; and the order does not address children previously separated from their parents.
According to former Immigration and Customs Enforcement head John Sandweg, there’s a real chance of permanent separation. “You could easily end up in a situation where the gap between a parent’s deportation and a child’s deportation is years,” said Sandweg to NBC News.
Americans cannot fall for Trump’s attempt to put out the fire and must keep the president fully aware of the flames.