Here are a smattering of thoughts which I had had good intentions of blogging about in a coherent, sourced manner, but, well, Time is Not My Friend.
No, kids are not in cages. The report floating around the internet yesterday, from MSNBC, described boys aged 10 – 14 in care centers that are probably not massively different than what a group home for American boys would be like, if they needed to scale up the system rapidly and had to deal with the other particular circumstances — at least I assume that in such cases children are also not allowed to leave the property without supervision. (Of course, for American children, only the very hardest to place are without foster parents, which affects their circumstances greatly as well.) 70% are unaccompanied minors, 30% originally arrived with their parents.
Are younger children similarly placed? What about girls? Are they easier to move into foster homes? Was there no pre-existing network of sites because there were significantly fewer teen and pre-teen girls arriving unaccompanied in the first place?
Is this a new, Trumpian policy? Yes and no. The law is not new — individuals who cross the border illegally have committed a crime. To the best of my understanding, what is new is that the Trump administration has decided to enforce a law that had previously gone unenforced.
What happens in ordinary circumstances when Americans who are primary caregivers to children commit crimes? Does a judge make decisions on bail or sentencing that give parents an advantage over nonparents, in terms of their ability to stay out of jail?
Is this a sign that we’re on a path towards Naziism? No. Look, this is what really irritates me. It’s a trivialization of the Holocaust to suggest that the detention or deportation of illegal immigrants is in any way analogous to the mass murder of the Jews and other undesirables. Even if Trump systematically deported every illegal immigrant, it would not be a “new Holocaust.” It would not be mass murder. For crying out loud, how can you even claim this is “ethnic cleansing” if these people have no legal authorization to live in this country?
Oh, and incidentally, asylum law as written is about granting refuge for individuals persecuted for specific reasons. Domestic abuse, or high crime rates in the home country, is not a specified reason.
And this is what really irritates me.
The progressive Left says they’re all about compromise and being “reasonable people” and they say that they indeed want reasonable immigration laws. But they reject every proposal to actually enforce those laws. Deportation brings out a massive hue and cry — and even with respect to criminals, there are increasing claims that it’s unfair to deport them back to their home countries because that’s unfairly burdening those countries with additional criminals. Enforcement of work authorization requirements or under-the-table employment brings out the objection that it prevents innocent people from earning a living and harms companies who can’t find American workers at the wages they’re willing to pay. (Yes, I am also not a fan of the fact that the same folks who complain that Walmart’s wages are so low that their employees disproportionately use food stamps, are perfectly OK with disproportionately-immigrant-worker employers paying similarly low wages.) Border enforcement or wall-building is unfair because it just causes them to cross in more dangerous ways.
Which means we’re in a position similar to that of Germany in dealing with its asylum-claimants, most of whom are ineligible, though the courts are backlogged in assessing individual cases. Unlike here, they don’t have the difficulty that the prior administration widened the grounds for asylum beyond the scope of the law itself. But instead they have the challenge that the flood of migrants destroyed their identity papers and all claimed to be from war-torn Syria, so that the country now needs to employ, among others, experts in dialects to determine whether claimants are actually from the region they claim to be from. But like the U.S., they are also having difficulty taking that last step of actually deporting people.
Here are a couple differences, though (and apologies for writing from memory):
in Germany, families are not generally separated; however, they are also not given their permissos and sent on their way to await a hearing which they may or may not attend depending on whether they themselves believe they have a valid claim as in the U.S. Instead, they live in refugee centers where they are given room and board and a small allowance for personal needs, and from which they complain about the poor conditions. They are not locked in, and there are frequent complaints from townspeople that groups of young asylum-seeking men cause trouble. But they don’t leave and seek to blend into the population, living and working illegally with false papers or under the table, both because, speaking Arabic or Farsi or some other language that’s not as common as Spanish is in the U.S., they can’t easily find a community to disappear into, and because the German system makes it much harder to “disappear” — there isn’t the same prevalence of using false ID or working under the table (I assume simply because of much greater enforcement) and even renting an apartment requires registering with the locality.
Now, having said that, it’s not universally true that Germany has “solved” the problem of illegal immigrants, because, after all, the perpetrators of the Koln New Year’s Eve sexual assaults were exactly this sort of young man, denied legal residency but never actually deported, who up to then were known as pickpockets and petty thieves.
But my bottom line is this: I will be an awful lot more receptive to complaints about “tearing apart families” if those people start offering constructive alternatives. And no, “let’s just open the borders” is not a constructive alternative, and neither is “let’s create a set of laws which we never enforce.”
Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A100203houston_lg.jpg; By U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), www.ice.gov. Please credit by saying “Photo Courtesy of ICE”. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons