The new Republican immigration policy is a disgrace. Children and infants are separated from their parents and held in detention centers. Women fleeing domestic abuse and families fleeing gang violence are not considered eligible for asylum. The Democrats acted shocked and attacked Trump for these attacks. But attacking desperate people from other countries is not a new policy. Obama and the Democrats deported plenty of people and held people in detention centers too. But the Trump administration has imprisoned more people and used open racist poison to justify what they do.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered each immigration judge to rule on 700 cases of asylum seekers a year. With the current staffing this is impossible. As a result judges are dismissing asylum applications without review. In 2012, about 45% of the cases were rejected. In 2017 it was up to 62%. Some border patrol agents are turning people away without the chance to apply for asylum. Many people, waiting for the chance to apply, end up camping along the Mexican side of the border. There they are the victims of crime cartels who put children into slavery, force girls into prostitution and kidnap and hold people hostage for ransom.
Today 90% of asylum seekers are being held in detention centers, usually in terrible conditions. For example, at the Adalante center on the border of California and Mexico, three people died in custody last year. People imprisoned there are paid $1 a day for cleaning and kitchen work. The food is terrible. There are often maggots in the meat. The center is in an isolated area, making it almost impossible to connect with support groups or find lawyers to help with asylum cases. This center is run by GEO Group, part of the prison industrial complex that profits running prisons and detention centers.
Why would people take the chance to come here when they know what they will face? It’s because they are fleeing even worse situations in their home countries. In fact they have been driven here by the policies of the U.S. government that refuses them asylum. Much of Central America has been torn apart by wars aimed at imposing U.S. corporate control over the region. Attempts to resist U.S.- backed dictators, through the ballot or through armed struggle have been met by the violence of the U.S. military or forces armed and trained by the U.S. For millions, life has been made unbearable.
It is ironic that Trump warns about the threat of MS13 (Mara Salvatrucha). This gang is a threat, especially to the people fleeing its violence. But MS13 is a made-in-the-U.S. creation, organized originally in Los Angeles where young poor immigrants learned from the streets and prisons how to protect themselves from other gangs. When they were deported, they took the gangs back home, to war-torn El Salvador, and neighboring countries also devastated by war and poverty. It is the poverty, the gang violence and brutal U.S-backed dictatorships that cause people to flee their homes.
If people manage to cross the border and find jobs, they are often exploited mercilessly. Most don’t resist, for fear of being deported. The bosses and their politicians claim that these people take our jobs, lower our wages and worsen our conditions. They claim to be defending our interests by attacking those coming to the U.S. hoping to make a new life. But these workers don’t lower our wages or make our conditions worse – the bosses do. We shouldn’t fall for the bosses’ lies. The only real interests the bosses defend is their profits.
When people learned of the attacks on children and their families, they were outraged. They helped with legal support and brought food and water to the border and organized protests across the country. We should all say “No!” to this disgraceful and inhumane policy.