Babies as Hostages

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

This week Trump faced the next major crisis of his presidency after hurricane Maria, and it will stay with us for the foreseeable future.  In April Jeff Sessions announced a new ‘zero tolerance’ policy for people illegally crossing the southern border, which implied that adults would be prosecuted and separated from their children.  A large number of recent arrivals on the border, however, are asylum seekers who are trying to escape from environments in which gang violence, rape and murder are common.  For them there is a specific process: they are supposed to report at a ‘port of entry,’ where their request for asylum is filed, after which they can remain united with their children while it is being processed.  The problem with this system is that there are only a few ports of entry and that they are severely underfunded – whether deliberately or not – and consequently understaffed, with as a result that every day large numbers of asylum seekers are turned away, essentially being told ‘come back some other time.’  Since almost none of them have the means to hang out in Mexico waiting for the port of entry to open, they have no choice but to cross the border illegally.

And that’s where the problem started.  Since the implementation of the policy upwards of  2,300 children, among them babies and toddlers, have been taken away from their imprisoned parents and placed in ‘centers,’ sometimes not more than a tent camp, managed by the Department of Health and Human Services.  The hardship imposed on children and parents is immeasurable, and psychiatrists warn that the traumatic effects of these separations could last a lifetime.  To make matters worse a number of children has been ‘lost’ and possibly ended up in the hands of human traffickers, while there is no process to reunite the families after the parents have been convicted and deported.  This modern fascist mess, with Trump’s full support created by his adviser Stephen Miller and Sessions, and executed by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, was finally too much for part of Trump’s hardcore followers, the only constituency he cares about, so that his approval rating even among Republican voters started sinking and the president was rudely awakened from his pipe dream that this would be a good issue for the upcoming midterm elections.

From the beginning it was obvious that the policy had two objectives: deterring asylum seekers from crossing the border and blackmailing the Democrats in Congress into approving funding for ‘the wall.’  About these objectives the public was treated to an assortment of often contradictory lies by Sessions, Nielsen, John Kelly and Trump himself, who also pretended that there was nothing he could do about the policy because it was ‘the law.’   However, on Wednesday he finally caved in and signed an executive order to rescind it.

At a rally that same night Trump’s racism, fertilized by the defeat he had suffered, was on full display when he talked about criminal immigrants ‘infesting’ the US and called the journey asylum seekers – who risk being robbed, raped and murdered – have to make to the border ‘a walk in the park.’  To get at least something out of it Trump praised the ever-silent Ivanka and the at best two-faced Melania for their role in changing the policy, and even sent the latter to the border to play the good cop of the family.

So far Trump’s executive order has primarily created confusion.  Upon being arrested and jailed in the US people get a receipt for their cellphone and wallet, but on the southern border parents were not given a receipt for their children, only a phone number that nobody answers.  Some families may never be reunited, and ‘crazy mothers’ may be wailing on the border for years to come.

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