Trump on Abused Immigrant Children: “They’re Not Innocent”
In April of 2017, when Donald Trump ordered his first missile strike in Syria, the president said that he was moved by the images of children killed in suspected chemical attacks. It was a rare moment of Trump being moved by compassion, and it hasn’t been replicated.
Now the Trump administration, and John Kelly in particular, have been criticized for its decision to break up families crossing the border illegally, and for their careless planning about what to do with those children one they’re shoved into detention centers on military bases. But Trump is doubling down, claiming that those children are nothing more than criminals in the future. Per the Washington Post:
Immigrant advocates have long said that the children, primarily from Central America, are fleeing violence in their home countries and seeking safe harbor in the United States. But the Trump administration has used their plight to justify cracking down on policies that allow these migrants to be released and obtain hearings before immigration judges, rather than being deported immediately.
“We have the worst immigration laws of any country, anywhere in the world,” Trump said at the roundtable held at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center. “They exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors.”
“They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”
Trump’s not alone in thinking that. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein claimed that the gang activity that happened during his tenure U.S. attorney for Maryland was fueled by undocumented children. According to Rosenstein, those children roam the streets like Oliver Twist until they’re absorbed into criminal organizations. “We’re letting people in who are creating problems. We’re letting people in who are gang members. We’re also letting people in who are vulnerable.”
First and foremost, this is Minority Report nonsense. The argument that we have to treat as criminals anyone who might be a criminal is the logic of a full-on police state. It’s also maddening that Rosenstein would claim that it’s immigrants who are creating problems when, broadly speaking, they’re fleeing violence, economic instability, and political corruption that the U.S. exported in the first place. But what’s most infuriating is that he would use the vulnerability of children and families as a cudgel against them, essentially arguing that they need help too badly to be allowed in the country.
On the same day that Trump and Rosenstein explained why children have to be treated as a national security threat, the ACLU released a report detailing a long history of child abuse at detention centers for immigrants. According to 30,000 pages of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU alleges that Customs and Border Patrolofficials are responsible for sexual abuse, physical assault, and denial of medical care, clean water and food. A small sample of the abuses committed by officials includes:
Denied detained children permission to stand or move freely for days and threatened children who stood up with transfer to solitary confinement in a small, freezing room
Denied a pregnant minor medical attention when she reported pain, which preceded a stillbirth
Subjected a 16-year-old girl to a search in which they “forcefully spread her legs and touched her private parts so hard that she screamed”
Left a 4-pound premature baby and her minor mother in an overcrowded and dirty cell full of sick people, against medical advice
Threw out a child’s birth certificate and threatened him with sexual abuse by an adult male detainee.
Officials have denied the allegations, calling them “unfounded and baseless.” All of these reports pre-dated the Trump administration, and there’s no reason to assume that CBP has become more transparent or accountable since then. Besides, this fits nicely into Trump and Kelly’s entire reasoning for the need to imprison children in the first place: subject them to so much cruelty that others won’t try to come to the US at all.
First, “pre-crime” is something you would find in a sci-fi dystopian nightmare society, such as in Phillip K. Dick’s “Minority Report.”
Finally, Trump regularly falsely conflates “immigrant” with “criminal”, which primes his already xenophobic base to be more suspicious of non-Americans. The reality is immigrants contribute to our society, even illegal ones, and commit crimes at lower rates than native populations.