Justice and Advocacy

Why Trump’s Executive Order Is Very Bad News

Big content warning for in-depth discussion of the recent executive order from President Trump on choosing to imprison families together instead of separating them. More links and context were added 7/2/18. If you have any updates on this developing story, please leave links in the comments and I will update accordingly.

I don’t feel that any coverage of yesterday’s executive order properly addresses the most alarming element of what it actually says. For context on the story leading up to this, however you can find good recaps here and here. To my surprise many of my (mostly Christian moderate liberals) Facebook friends were sharing the story excitedly, saying it was “a step in the right direction,” or a “tourniquet to stop the bleeding at least.” 

But when my man read the actual text, he pointed out something that I haven’t been able to shake since he said it to me last night. It orders that all illegal aliens are now committing a crime, rather than, well, whatever it was before. I seriously cannot find any clear literature on a national law (prior to the executive order of June 20, 2018) that declares illegally entering the country is a crime. What level of crime is it, exactly, to attempt to enter the country? Comparable to degrees of murder, theft, etc? All I can find out is that this was previously not a crime. The most recent sources on this are from 2013 and 2017, but they merely speculate on this question.

Okay, Trump is using big words to sound smart and keep the American public wrapped around his finger. The key words to pay attention to in section 1 are these: Rigorously enforce. Committed. Crime. Subject to fine or imprisonment. Detaining alien families together.

Here’s the first sentence (don’t worry, there are only six) (emphasis mine):

       “It is the policy of this Administration to rigorously enforce our immigration laws.

Hmm…I thought this was supposed to be about how we’re…not taking children from their parents and keeping them in cages anymore?

He starts with reinforcing the lie that ICE has merely been enforcing the law. Many conservatives I’ve interacted with online believe that Trump was simply continuing the same border detention actions as the Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations. His opening line is meant to calm everyone down. He’s still down to be a hardass to those bad, bad border-crossers. Victim blaming is exactly what the rich have always used to encourage bootlicking. Classic ‘Murica, but I get ahead of myself.

:cough: President Trump continues:

“Under our laws, the only legal way for an alien to enter this country is at a designated port of entry at an appropriate time.”

I would love to have more specifics here, but it’s Trump. I’ve had to pay tolls and cross borders and shit. White America thinks that’s all this is, not running for your life and stretching to feed and travel with your children to hopefully reach a safe place (because they can’t imagine it). America offers a place where these migrants can grapple with poverty under capitalism instead of war and terrorism that the US is largely to blame for, and whatever other reasons innocent people would seek sanctuary.

This is the part my boyfriend deserves credit for pointing out in Trump’s wording (emphasis and link added):

When an alien enters or attempts to enter the country anywhere else, that alien has committed at least the crime of improper entry and is subject to a fine or imprisonment under section 1325(a) of title 8, United States Code. This Administration will initiate proceedings to enforce this and other criminal provisions of the INA until and unless Congress directs otherwise.”

Congress has the opportunity to respond, but they most definitely won’t if voters are appeased by this law. When I read the text in that link, my heart rate went up. Imagine spending 5 years in prison, and having to rebuild your life afterward, because you got a marriage license to stay safe and alive.

Up next, the part we’ve all been waiting for! The bit where he says we’re not going to separate parents from children anymore! Let’s see what kind of harsh, choice words the Commander in Chief has for this atrocity against human rights. Here’s the second-to-last sentence of the Executive Order (the rest is definitions and details) (emphasis mine):

It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.

Hold the phone – so the solution is to now, rather than putting innocent children in cages, we’re going to put their parents in the cages with them?! This does absolutely nothing to remove these for-profit camps that the children have been placed in thus far, and simply says we’re keeping the families together now.

The expectation is that the American public will be pacified with the idea of labeling innocent, asylum-seeking children as criminals. After all, criminals deserve what they get in this country.

As per usual, the unclear text to appease the American people is buried in editorialization (as if writing their lie into an executive order makes it true somehow based on the constitutionality of previous actions). The last sentence of section 1 snidely blames Congress:
“It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.”
Bernie Sanders has called Trump out for failing to clearly define deadlines and parameters for his plans, leaving these families vulnerable to indefinite imprisonment together. The leaders of the American people think that if they make us angry about something and then pretend to fix it, we’ll stay quiet and quickly move on to the next headline.

But the backlash was not exclusively about separating children from their parents. It (still) is about treating innocent, desperate people in an inhumane way. This executive order does not fix that.

A of all, Americans seem to be generally okay with the idea of separating abusive parents from vulnerable children, as demonstrated by the shock over several case of severe child abuse were unearthed earlier this year. B of all, children being taken from parents in various ways is a familiar thing to minorities all over the US, and this widespread outrage is a slap in the face for people who’ve already lost children to systemic violence in its many forms.

If you’re listening to the minorities who are actually affected by being separated under American law enforcement’s violent rule, you know that none of this is new. Children are suffering, it seems, in every corner of the American system. African-American children are the most likely to be victims of murder (10 times more likely to be fatally shot with a gun than white children) and suicide (twice as vulnerable as white children), the direct result of merciless systematic violence: These children are separated from parents who are targeted for mass imprisonment/poverty for their labor. Just 100 years after genocide under the Jackson administration, Native American children were snatched from their homes to be brainwashed by white “values” and “language.” To this day, indigenous people are left in a double bind: on the one hand, few resources are allocated to their education to compete in a westernized society. On the other, who would want to be educated in how to be like these violent colonizers who’ve taken so much from them? As for “immigrants” from central America, we pushed the borders of Texas back into Mexican territory over slavery, harming both indigenous and enslaved people of the southern present United States. ICE has been terrorizing migrant families for MONTHS and arresting parents when they come to pick their kids up from school, to far less outcry. Voices all over the internet have been speaking up to say this is how it has always been. This is the United States, from genocide to slavery to concentration camps or internment camps.

It’s not just the US that has been and is committing genocide. Aboriginal people have been the target of Euro-centric violence all around the world since before America was “discovered” by white people. In Australia, politicians pay lip service to making amends for genocidal action, but families are still being separated.

Imprisonment is the historically effective solution for dealing with marginalized and oppressed people in the US. The violence against these people to this day is the prosecution of so-called “criminals” after successfully defining them as such. Thanks to this new executive order, children under the age of 18 are expressly labeled as criminals, and punishable as such, by previously defined laws. And they will be imprisoned and prosecuted, along with their parents.

This is not a step forward. It is an appalling attempt to make the American people believe that imprisoning entire families indefinitely, and prosecuting them like criminals for possibly years, is humane. The cages are not going away – though they are apparently funding “shelters” that these people will not be permitted to leave until their cases are handled. This effectively means concentration camps are still in operation today.

I am not in any way saying it’s okay to separate parents from immigrant families and put their kids in cages – that needs to stop immediately, and apparently has. Others have done much more significant work than I in coming up with ways to help these families and children. Here is a comprehensive list of organizations that are working to provide resources at the many complex levels of the restoration process.

Imprisoning entire families together by the thousands is exactly what you get away with by defining all of them as criminals, regardless of age. As long as people “deserve” what they get, it’s fine. Prisoners deserve their punishments. Who cares if we give them a little work to do while they’re in there, and let their families and resources crumble under them while they’re imprisoned? Dead children tell no tales – and the children who get sold into slavery? Well, their parents shouldn’t have done the Bad Thing that’s Against The Law.

The American public has believed its government over and over again whenever it Otherizes a group by calling it criminal.

One of the original lies that Trump told to try and dodge responsibility for the policy of separating families was, “The kids aren’t criminals, and we can’t prosecute them like they are, so we have to take the parents away.”

The outcry has continuously been, “Stop separating families!”

And the answer was, “Okay, fine. We’ll imprison the children and prosecute them as well.”