Donald Trump. Photo: Flickr/Michael Vadon Donald Trump. Photo: Flickr/Michael Vadon

Separating children from their parents and detaining them is consistent with Trump’s inhumane policies and adds to why we need to protest against him argues Sean Ledwith

Shocking scenes of children being separated from parents and detained in cages on America’s southern border have brought Trump’s calamitous Presidency to a new low. Over 2,000 children of undocumented migrants have been locked up for almost two weeks in temperatures frequently exceeding 100°F following the President’s decision to intensify the anti-immigration policies of his predecessors in the White House.

Under Obama, families seeking entry to the US without documentation would be turned away based on a ‘catch and release’ policy. Trump and his egregious Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, have this year decided such an approach is insufficiently brutal and initiated the internment of economic migrants. Many in the US have drawn unwanted comparisons between the scenes on the southern border and the notorious internment of Japanese Americans in WW2 that shamed the Presidency of Franklin Roosevelt.


Appalling though the policy is, it is consistent with the bigoted and inhumane tone Trump has adopted to the whole immigration debate since he launched his Presidential bid in 2015 with a despicable statement about Mexico “sending people that have many problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists.“ Last year, Trump cancelled the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Children Arrivals programme that offered some protection for vulnerable minors. In April of this year, the Attorney General announced the implementation of a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to the border question that authorised the separation of parents and children. The new policy also criminalised those who were found to be in violation of US immigration laws, whereas in the past the lesser offence of committing a misdeamour was applied.

Horror on the border

The consequences of this so-called crackdown have been truly devastating. Earlier this month 39-year old asylum seeker Marco Munoz hanged himself in a Texas jail after being forcibly separated from his wife and 3-year old son. Last week in the same state, five migrants were killed in a horrific fireball when their van came off the road during a high-speed pursuit by police. In May, Claudia Gonzalez’s reward for trying to escape poverty and seeking a new life was a bullet in the head from a border patrol. Her mother in Guatemala commented:

She told me she wanted to keep studying at university but we don’t have the money … We’re poor and there are no jobs here, that’s why she travelled to the US – but they killed her. Immigration killed her. She did not do anything wrong.


The last tragedy illustrates the grim reality that this crisis is another example of the US reaping what it sows outside its borders. Many of the migrants heading out of Central and South America towards the border are fleeing repressive regimes that are supported by Washington. US arms sales to the so-called Northern Triangle states of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have rocketed in recent years and created a toxic cocktail of poverty and terror that has enabled criminal gangs to flourish. Many of the families who turn up at the southern border have already been traumatised by experiences in their own countries. An NGO report last year indicated that over 90% of those who make it to the US have witnessed either the brutalisation or murder of a family member. These are the people Trump and his acolytes are throwing into detention camps.

Bible Studies

Jeff Sessions (named after a racist Confederate general in the civil war) unbelievably tried to use biblical authority to justify the incarceration policy. Sessions told reporters:

I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.

More enlightened biblical commentators were quick to point out that Sessions’ selective reading of St Paul strangely omitted a passage from the same letter:

If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads….Love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Even Trump’s Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, who has turned defending the indefensible into an art form, has struggled to cope with the backlash, somehow managing to blame the media for the scenes of heartbroken children. As usual, the President himself has resorted to hyperbolic nonsense to justify the policy; clumsily wading into the controversy in Europe over refugees in the Mediterranean and fabricating statistics about an immigrant-inspired crime wave in Germany. His latest moronic tweet claimed:

Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!

Meanwhile in the real world, crime in Germany is at a twenty-five year low, which noticeably includes offences by non-Germans down by 2%!

Resistance on the streets

Even Melania Trump (who is probably an expert on inhumane incarceration) has broken her apparent vow of silence to implicitly rebuke her husband, commenting that she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform.”

Likely to be more effective than the First Lady as a means of thwarting Trump’s inhumane policy is a mass mobilisation in Washington planned for the end of this month by activist groups such as the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the ACLU and the Women’s March. Hopefully, this will generate images of popular resistance reminiscent of the demonstrations against the President when he took office last year.

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History at York College, where he is also UCU branch negotiator. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters

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