Zero Tolerance Policy punishes migrant children



By Perry Diaz

Last April 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he’s implementing a “Zero Tolerance Policy” (ZTP) for immigrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. He then directed federal prosecutors in the region of the new policy, directing them to make prosecuting criminal immigration offenses a priority.

Sessions defended the ZTP by citing the Bible. Specifically, he referred to Romans 13:1-7, which is one of the most misunderstood – and misinterpreted — passages in the Bible. It was written by Apostle Paul around 57 AD, instructing ¬¬Christians to submit to “God’s servants,” that is, the government. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authority, for there is no authority except that which God has established,” the passage says. “The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

It is interesting to note that Nazi sympathizers, apartheid-enforcers, slave owners, and loyalists opposed to the American Revolution have cited Romans 13 to justify their actions.

Present day Christians also referred to the passage to issues like abortion, same-sex marriages, and taxes.

Rounding up the children
Within days of the issuance of ZTP, children were forcibly separated from their parents. By May 31, 2018, 1,995 children were ripped from their parents. They were brought to detention centers. It was also disclosed that a contractor was paid $10 million to build a tent city at an undisclosed location near El Paso, Texas in an area that’s inaccessible to the public. The rest of the separated children are housed in warehouse-like detention centers.

Every day, an average of 70 children are forcibly separated from their parents and sent to the detention centers. Another 12,000 minors are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). That number is expected to increase to 20,000 by August.

Trump tried to wash his hands of the controversial ZTP by blaming the Democrats for his controversial actions. At an impromptu press conference at the White House lawn, Trump blamed the Democrats for the children’s plight. He said that it was the Democrats who created the law. However, one reporter told him that it was his policy — the ZTP — that forcibly took the children away from their parents. Trump ignored the reporter and continued ranting and blaming the “Democrats’ law.” Another reporter said that Trump could stop the separation of children from their parents with just one phone call. Another reporter noted that Trump controls both houses of Congress, so he could change the law anytime he wants to.

Sticking to his guns that it’s the “Democrats’ law” – which he claims he hates — that is the separating the children from their parents. However, he has not done anything to stop his cruel actions. And he continues to lie, which reminds me of Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels who once said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” It is no wonder then that Trump never admitted to lying.

According to the Washington Post, who maintained a list of Trump’s lies, Trump has lied more than 3,000 times since he took office. That’s an average of 6.5 lies a day. And yet his base never questioned those lies.

Political leverage
Last June 15, White House officials leaked information to the media, which says Trump admitted that he has calculated that “he would gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce the ZTP.” Trump suggested that he would not change the ZTP unless “Democrats agreed to his offer to his other immigration demands, which include funding a border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry.” Indeed, Trump is using the children as pawns to achieve his legislative immigration agenda. It is not only unconscionable; it is obscene! Falsely claiming that the Democrats alone had the power to alter the ZTP, he said, “I hate the children being taken away.” But ZTP is his policy, not the Democrats’. The Democrats had nothing to do with it. And he can reverse it anytime. And to add insult to an injury, Trump tweeted: “The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.” Huh?

It’s obvious that Trump all along had used the ZTP as a weapon to punish immigrants – particularly Mexicans — that he claimed during the 2016 presidential campaign: “They are not our friend, believe me. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

And some, I assume, are good people.”

Internment camps
And now, he has children of illegal immigrants rounded up and placed in warehouses and a tent city under the hot summer sun in the middle of the desert in Tornillo, Texas. This reminds me of what Hitler and the Nazis did to Jewish children during World War II. They separated the children from their parents, sending most of the parents to the gas chambers while putting able-bodied adults and children to work in concentration camps like the one in Auschwitz and 45 other camps where the Nazis had put more than six million Jews to death.

The detention shelters – or concentration camps — for the separated children are no different from how the Nazis treated Jewish children during World War II. Like the Jewish children, the children separated from their parents would be scarred and traumatized for the rest of their lives. Is this necessary punishment for innocent people whose only crimes are that they’re children of immigrants seeking asylum in America?

Trump retreats
Meanwhile, on Father’s Day, First Lady Melania Trump weighed in. “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN on Sunday. “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

Former First Lady Laura Bush also weighed in, saying: “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.” She also said: “Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

And just as when Americans thought that the internment camps were things of America’s shameful past, the Trump administration built tent cities (the Trump administration calls them “tender age” shelters) where toddlers and babies are housed. The Associated Press reported that at least three “tender age” shelters were built in southern Texas that could accommodate 4,000 toddlers and babies. I call the tent shelters, “Trumpville.” There is only one word to describe this: Madness!

Last June 20, Trump backed down amid public indignation and worldwide outrage. He conveniently issued an executive order temporarily allowing migrant families to be held in detention centers together with their children. However, Trump did not reverse or revoke ZTP, which remains like a sword of Damocles over the heads of migrant families. But it was a fellow Republican, Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who aptly described Trump’s actions, calling him an “arsonist” who is now playing “fireman” by putting out his own fire. Sad to say, it’s too late because the fire has already consumed a whole mountain of forests.

While this would give a sigh of relief to families who haven’t been ripped apart yet, there are around 2,500 children who are in detention centers and another 12,000 minors under the custody of the DHHS. Their future remains unknown. According to DHHS officials, there are no plans to reunite the children with their families, which begs the question: What will happen to the children already in detention? The problem of migrant children “orphaned” by separation remains and there seems to be no end in sight to their agony. Their status is in limbo.

At the end of the day, Trump may have gained some respite from the ordeal that he inflicted upon himself but the separated children will be an albatross round his neck, a heavy burden he’ll carry for the rest of his presidency. Meanwhile, the “Zero Tolerance Policy” continues to punish migrant children.