Another day, another extreme cruelty: according to a report in the New York Times, the Trump administration has deported almost 1,000 migrant children and teens during the past two months of the covid-19 pandemic, sending them out of the United States alone and at times putting them on a flight without even telling their family members. Stephen Miller, who is unfortunately still alive, must be thrilled.
Trump’s latest tactic in the service of slashing immigration is, as the New York Times points out, a complete 180 from past policy:
The deportations represent an extraordinary shift in policy that has been unfolding in recent weeks on the southwestern border, under which safeguards that have for decades been granted to migrant children by both Democratic and Republican administrations appear to have been abandoned.
Historically, young migrants who showed up at the border without adult guardians were provided with shelter, education, medical care and a lengthy administrative process that allowed them to make a case for staying in the United States. Those who were eventually deported were sent home only after arrangements had been made to assure they had a safe place to return to.
But now, not even children who are already in the United States with pending asylum cases are safe from deportation. As the Times reported, in addition to the more than 900 children and teens who were deported in March and April shortly after arriving at the border, 60 young people who were already being held in government shelters were also abruptly sent out of the United States, at times “rousted from their beds in the middle of the night.”
According to the Times, even young children have been put on flights by themselves. Take the case of Sandra Rodríguez and her 10-year-old son Gerson, whom she sent across the southern border with the expectation that once Gerson arrived in the United States, he would be able to eventually live with Rodríguez’s brother in Houston. But instead, shortly after entering the U.S., Gerson was sent to Honduras alone.
This incredibly callous treatment of young migrants as well as their families is part of the Trump administration’s attempt to erase any vestige of due process at the border with Mexico. Citing the pandemic, immigration officials have used provisions in the 1944 Public Health Act as justification to essentially close the United States to all asylum seekers who cross the border. The impact has been severe: In an almost two-month period from mid-March to May, only two people seeking protection on humanitarian grounds at the border were allowed to stay within the United States.
“What is happening at the border right now is a tragedy. We are abandoning our legal commitment to provide asylum to people whose lives are in danger in other countries,” Kari Hong, an immigration attorney and Boston College law school professor, told the Washington Post. “By invoking these emergency orders, the Trump administration is simply doing what it’s wanted to do all along, which is to end asylum law in its entirety,” she said.
While Trump administration officials have justified their likely illegal use of emergency orders in the name of public health, the fact that officials have also deported children and teens who were already in the care of the federal government sure indicates that something else is going on here. I wonder what that could be.