LETTER TO THE EDITOR: U.S. treatment of asylum seekers is ‘inhumane’

On April 6, this administration, through Attorney General Jefferson Sessions, announced a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding “illegal” immigration. The stated intent was to deter/stop asylum seeking refugee families from crossing our southern borders. During his campaign, the president referred to these people as killers, rapists, drug dealers, and MS-13 gang members. Many Americans chose to believe him which has resulted in the situation we face today.

As noted by the New York Times on April 20, 2018, 700 children were taken from refugee families per a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. By Friday, June 15, that number had increased to 2,000 or more, shocking many U. S. citizens like myself. These refugee families are seeking asylum (protection granted to someone escaping persecution, danger, or poverty) at designated border crossings where their cases are traditionally heard. However, many are told that their chosen crossing is closed so they try to cross elsewhere. They join others, who cannot even reach the crossings, and are thus arrested as “illegal.” They surrender to the first U.S. agent they meet and ask for asylum.

These asylum-seeking refugees are immediately arrested and separated from their children. It is reported by REAL NEWS outlets that these refugees are fleeing from gang and/or cartel violence in Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

The claims that they are criminals, gang members or threats to our security are spurious. Reporting for NBC’s “Dateline: The Dividing Line,” Jacob Soboroff interviewed Manuel Padilla, border patrol chief of the Rio Grande Sector. Padilla stated that of 187,000 crossing the southern border in 2017 only 180 were MS-13 gang members. That is 0.1 percent. There are 50 border crossings. California has nine, Arizona nine, New Mexico three and Texas 29. Some of these are far from our southern borders.

On June 23, reporting on “AM Joy” of MSNBC, journalist Mariana Atencio was eyewitness to hearings in McAllen, Texas. She reported that people, shackled at the ankles, were herded into plea hearings. Each hearing lasted about 90 seconds. Federally employed “defense” attorneys urged the refugees to plead guilty in order to attempt reuniting with their children. Will this scenario become the norm? There is nothing clear from the administration.

“Improper entry” into the U.S. is a misdemeanor unless one is deported and then repeats the attempt. The present “zero-tolerance” policy put forth by POTUS and Sessions established the requirement that children be removed from parents. I listened to an interview on NPR from a supporter of POTUS’ policy. He contends that guilty felons lose their children so why not do the same to illegal refugee parents.

The truth is the reverse: Children of convicts “lose” a parent due to the parent’s criminal activity. In reality, if American children are found to be abused or neglected, they are removed from their homes and placed in foster care and may be returned if/when authorities are assured that they will be safe. Refugee parents removing their children from harm’s way are neither abusive, neglectful, nor are they convicted felons.

As the cruel actions of this administration became more widely known on June 15, members of the White House staff, the DHS secretary and the A.G., who used a Bible reference as justification, staunchly defended this policy. A few media people were quite vociferous in lauding the administration’s policy. However, according to an SSRS survey of citizens reported on June 18 72 percent of respondents disapproved of removing children while 29 percent approved.

At least 12 congressional Republicans are strongly opposed to separating children from families. Motivated by the degree of outrage to his policy and NOT out of compassion, POTUS reversed himself with an executive order on June 21 purportedly ending the separation of children from families.

Reunification of families will take time. Many of the children are too young to state their family name. Others have been transported to Homestead, Florida to New York City, and to locations far from the border. A lack of record keeping, the rapid deportation of some parents, together with too few people to quickly match children to parents will deepen the tragedy. Beyond that, POTUS has other plans to deal with these refugees.

POTUS and A.G. Sessions want families to be held indefinitely on military bases in what amount to tent-like barracks yet to be constructed. There has been no assurance that these detention facilities will be humane.

On June 21, Sessions filed a motion in federal court to modify the 1997 “Flores Settlement Agreement” that demands humane treatment for child refugees and limits their detention in a facility to 20 days. He claims that this agreement prohibits the detention of complete families for the prolonged period necessitated by the large number of refugees today and the lack of judges available for asylum hearings. Moreover, POTUS flatly rejects the DOJ hiring any more immigration judges. Like FDR’s wrongful detention of Japanese-American citizens, these refugees may not have hearings as they apply for asylum.

Prior to European whites arriving to the American shores, Native Americans of the First Nations did not have a central government and thus were unable to officially declare the arriving settlers and conquerors as being ‘illegal aliens.” Some of the natives showed compassion until the immigrants began to explore and to violently exploit them with more powerful weaponry.

In other words, the alien settlers stole the lands from the Native Americans. Many of these settlers had fled religious persecution like the Pilgrims. Others fled poverty and/or violence or for political reasons. Still others arrived as African-American slaves for the enrichment of white Europeans who eventually became the first U.S. citizens. Moreover, unless one is of pure Native American ancestry, all United States citizens are descended from illegal aliens i.e.; unauthorized immigrants seeking some form of “asylum.” The signers of our Declaration of Independence and creators of our constitutional democracy and all who have arrived since were immigrants and descendants of immigrants regardless of skin color.

The harsh treatment of the current asylum-seeking refugees and the cruel separation of families and their children are absolutely inhumane. It is stunning that so many American citizens justify and condone this cruelty. The policies of this administration bear sole responsibility for this crisis. POTUS and his devotees are creating an America that is contrary to what I’ve loved for 72 years. Perhaps POTUS and A.G. Sessions should re-read Jesus’ summary of the law in Matthew 22:37-40.

May God save the U.S.A.

Alan Gaddis
Dover

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