Keeping families together is an American value

Criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Possibility of Russian hacking upcoming elections. A trade war destined to destroy more U.S. jobs than it creates.

The scrapping of clean air and water regulations. The end of affordable insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Net neutrality’s demise, rising gas prices, work requirements for SNAP (food stamps).

All are possible column topics.

But traumatized children occupy my thoughts.

Separating children, especially infants and toddlers, from mothers and fathers is not politics as usual. It is cruel and unusual punishment — of the innocent.

Americans once inflicted such suffering on blacks and American Indians, but over the past century we’ve developed a more just society that gives substance to the values we profess, values rooted in the Christian admonition to treat others as we’d like to be treated.

What was the president thinking of?

His administration has presented several arguments: seizing children would stop families from coming; the parents committed a crime entering the country illegally; current law requires such separation.

All are false.

The flood of people at our border are not ordinary immigrants, but refugees. They have fled violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in hopes that U.S. immigration judges will agree that their lives would be in danger if they returned.

For 50 years the United States has honored an international protocol for the humane treatment of refugees. One provision clearly states that refugees who contact a border agent and seek asylum cannot be prosecuted for illegal entry (http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html).

During weeks of walking, most refugees failed to learn about President Trump’s tweets that border agents would seize children. And, no, there is no “Democrat law” requiring seizures, and they were not done previously. President Obama had enough problems providing for minors arriving at the border without parents. And federal courts ruled he couldn’t keep families in detention centers more than 20 days.

President Trump had to know that the courts would not allow his policy of seizing children to continue. So what was he hoping to accomplish?

He could assure his supporters he was a bold strongman standing against an invasion of immigrants.

Moreover, by getting others to attack his acts, he would drive home the need for his supporters to rally behind him.

He could claim that Democrats support open borders.

He could gain support for the two harsh immigration reform bills Republicans are proposing and kill any chance for a bipartisan bill.

And he could call for a great “red wave” in November to see that the harsher bills will pass.

It’s a classic “us versus them” move aimed at dividing the strong majority that favors reasonable immigration reform and continuation of DACA.

And it only required sacrificing a couple thousand families. (Reuniting them didn’t add anything to the plan so there was no database linking the seized children to their parents. Strong leaders don’t let the suffering of others slow them down.)

We won’t know until November whether President Trump calculated correctly.

I like to think, however, that the strength of response from the American people shocked him.

They gathered at border crossings and airports. They hounded their representatives. Flight attendants pushed the airlines not to fly the children without their parents.

Laura Bush wrote an editorial condemning the practice, and Michelle Obama praised her.

And Southern Baptist leaders in convention unanimously passed a resolution stating that “God commands His people to treat immigrants with the same respect and dignity as those native born.”

I am proud so many share American values.

 

Note this editorial published by Idaho Tribune June 25, 2018

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