Trump Intentionally Inflicts Harm on Refugees as a Show of Force

The roundup is about to begin. On Sunday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will start the process of arresting undocumented migrants. Their efforts will target ten major U.S. cities and will focus on at least 2,000 people who have been ordered deported—primarily for failure to appear in court for asylum hearings.

This is the operation that Trump forecast in June when he tweeted that “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in.” It was ultimately delayed, in part due to objections raised by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin K. McAleenan.

Apparently the details of how to organize this operation are still in flux, which probably means that it is yet another example of this administration proving the British ambassador correct: they are “dysfunctional, unpredictable, clumsy, inept, and incompetent.” But there are several things that we already know about this plan that should signal alarm.

For example, administration officials admit that there will be “collateral deportations.” What that means is that people on the scene who are assumed to be immigrants might be detained, even though they are not targets of the raids. So if you happen to be in the vicinity and have brown skin, you’re likely to be jailed and possibly deported.

Families who are arrested together will be detained at facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania. As a reminder, here is what a pediatrician from McAllen, Texas found when she visited a facility there.

Sevier found that about two-thirds of the kids she examined had symptoms of respiratory infection. The guards wore surgical masks, but the detainees breathed the air unfiltered. As the children filed in, Sevier said she found evidence of sleep deprivation, dehydration, and malnutrition too.

There is also the issue of what happens to the children who are U.S. citizens with parents who are undocumented. They will be separated from their families and held until a relative in the United States can claim them. Given that in the past DHS has targeted sponsors for deportation if they are undocumented, some of those family members will probably be hesitant to come forward.

You might wonder why all of this is necessary. Adam Serwer captured a truism of the Trump era when he wrote that “the cruelty is the point.” This operation is a perfect example of that.

The Trump administration’s goal is to use the operation as a show of force to deter families from approaching the southwestern border, the officials said.

Thirty years ago, Trump thought that reviving the death penalty for the Central Park Five would be the “show of force” necessary to bring law and order to New York City. Similarly, he thinks that arming teachers as a “show of force” will stop school shootings. Now he thinks that if he can inflict enough cruelty on desperate people, it will be the “show of force” that stops them from seeking asylum in this country.

There are a lot of ways I can think of to respond to that kind of idiocy. But given that we are talking about intentionally harming refugees—especially children—none of them are fit to print in a reputable publication. Use your imagination.

P.S. The ACLU has some tips for what to do if ICE shows up at your door.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.