Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Loving the Children To Death

Right now, the Republican Party is trying to square a very nettlesome circle. On the one hand, they want to communicate that they care about the immigrant children the Trump administration is ripping away from their families. On the other hand, they want to do as little as possible to actually challenge Trump's policies or effectuate any meaningful change -- especially if it might mean (heaven forbid) some of these kids actually get to stay in the United States and build a safe and productive life here.

The latest bit of rhetoric emerging out of this impossible dynamic is the claim that it is for the children's own good that they are being ripped from their families and locked into cages. Moderate Republican(tm) Susan Collins kicked this off, wailing about how "dangerous" it is for parents try and cross the American border as cover for refusing to join Democratic efforts to end family separation.

More recently, that gambit has been extended to allege that the children in question are actually trafficking victims and that therefore efforts to prevent family separation are the real acts of child abuse. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, for example, tweeted the following today:
Meanwhile, his Nebraska colleague Ben Sasse took a more circuitous route -- sprinkled with many rhetorical condemnations of the family separation policy -- to arrive mostly at the same place:
This bad new policy is a reaction against a bad old policy. The old policy was “catch-and-release.” Under catch-and-release, if someone made it to the border and claimed asylum (whether true or not, and most of the time it wasn’t true), they were released into the U.S. until a future hearing date....
Catch-and-release – combined with inefficient deportation and other ineffective policies – created a magnet whereby lots of people came to the border who were not actually asylum-seekers. This magnet not only attracted illegal immigrants generally, but also produced an uptick in human trafficking across our border.... 
Human trafficking organizations are not just evil; they’re also often smart. Many quickly learned the “magic words” they needed to say under catch-and-release to guarantee admission into the U.S. Because of this, some of the folks showing up at the border claiming to be families are not actually families. Some are a trafficker with one or more trafficked children. Sometimes border agents can identify this, but many times they aren’t sure. 
Any policy that incentivizes illegal immigration is terrible governance. But even more troubling is that catch-and-release rewarded traffickers, who knew they could easily get their victims to market in the U.S.
Incidentally, "Ben Sasse takes a more circuitous route to arrive at the same place as Tom Cotton" basically describes the Republican Party dynamic on every noteworthy case of Trump administration extremism.

Anyway, first thing to say about the trafficking talking point is that it's basically bogus: DHS statistics indicate that 0.61% of family apprehensions at the border are even alleged to be cases where smugglers have falsely presented a trafficking victim as a family member.

But let's take the tiny minority of trafficking cases at face value. Those kids whom Collins and Cotton and Sasse are so concerned about? They're the ones the Trump administration is putting in cages. One might forget that the immigrant children are supposedly the victims in the GOP story, given how every Republican solution centers around keeping them incarcerated until they can be sent back to their countries of origin (where, remember, they were by stipulation abducted and smuggled across international borders -- so not a great place for them). Much like Syrian children, immigrant children (whether victims of traffickers or not) are good enough for Republicans to imprison, but not good enough to rescue.

It's no accident that the more honest voices of the Trump movement -- the Ann Coulters of the world -- are perfectly explicit in stating that the children are just as much of the enemy as their supposed "traffickers". Nothing the Republican Party has done over the past several years has been remotely consistent with the idea that they actual view immigrant children as valuable human beings whom we have an obligation to treat with respect. The priority is ensuring -- at any cost -- that they do not have the opportunity to build a dignified life for themselves in America. If that means ripping them from their parent's arms, so be it. If they means permanently destroying families, so be it. If that means sending them back to countries where they'll be executed by paramilitary gangs, so be it.

Republicans care a lot about immigrant children. It's a shame that all that care and concern goes mostly into destroying their lives.

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