While the dizzying array of hardline policies enacted and proposed by the Trump administration can be confusing, let’s be clear about the significance of Attorney General William Barr’s ruling last week to grant new legal authority to ICE to hold asylum-seekers in indefinite detention. With this new stance on the detention of asylum-seekers, the Trump Administration is gearing up for family separation 2.0 and setting the stage for internment camps to house men, women and children.
The intention seems to be to detain adults for as long as it takes before they are deported, while giving parents a “Sophie’s choice” of indefinite detention with their children or without their children. We are on the verge of descending from the cruel, chaotic and cynical to the dark, desperate and morally disastrous.
These actions won’t solve the problem, but will create more chaos, confusion and condemnation. This administration fails to understand the complexity of this challenge, therefore has failed to mount a multi-pronged strategy to deal with it, therefore will continue to fail with its myopic, deterrence-only, border-centric approach.
People fleeing for their lives won’t stop because Trump talks tough. Parents desperately trying to keep their kids alive won’t stop because Bill Barr waves around a piece of paper. Families escaping the clutches of gangs, violence and femicide won’t stop because América has taken a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty. Unless and until this government reckons with the realities of a regional refugee-like emergency in all its dimensions — from the sending communities in some of the most murderous nations on earth to the receiving and transit countries in the region, to the humanitarian, legal and law enforcement needs at the border to the role local communities throughout America play with respect to ensuring there is follow through on life-and-death asylum hearings — the failed one-dimensional Trump strategy of escalating cruelty will continue to exacerbate chaos rather than produce results.
There’s a better way to deal with this asylum emergency. There is a multi-layered approach available right now that is more effective, more humane and more American. It involves a strategy that balances and integrates the need to protect refugees and the vulnerable while bringing more order and control to the situation. It requires América — the nation that won two world wars, put a man on the moon, and defeated communism — to mobilize an intelligent, realistic and lawful response. There’s no silver bullet. There’s no one element that will fix it, once and for all. It won’t happen overnight. But if we come together to meet the complexity of this emergency in all its dynamics, our country can rise to the challenge, devise a workable and humane strategy, and deal with the rise of families fleeing violence and seeking refuge.
Frank Sharry is the Executive Director of América’s Voice.
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