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Donald Trump's Immigration Policy Is Even More Sadistic Than It Looks

A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks out over Tijuana, Mexico. (Gregory Bull / AP)

This week, between disinviting the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles to the White House and stumping to keep the country “out of the hands of High Tax, High Crime [sic] Nancy Pelosi,” Donald Trump took to Twitter to blame the Democratic Party, again, for his own brutal immigration policy. “Separating families at the Border is the fault of bad legislation passed by the Democrats,” he tweeted. “Border Security laws should be changed but the Dems can’t get their act together! Started the Wall.”

As numerous political analysts have pointed out, the president’s claim is complete bunk; there is no law requiring border patrol to snatch a 53-week-old infant from his mother, just a brutal method of deterrence the White House has advocated for and adopted. While President Barack Obama helped assemble the lethal deportation machine that Trump is currently operating, forcibly expelling as many 2.5 million people, the cruelty of such a policy has no precedent. And as a new Vox report makes clear, the sadism of the Trump administration extends well beyond its prosecution of those seeking asylum without documentation.

There are two means by which refugees can find haven in the United States: They can use an official port of entry, such as an airport or a highway checkpoint, or they can enter the country on their own and present themselves to the authorities. (Although this method of entry is technically illegal, it has no bearing on their claims of asylum.)

As part of its “zero tolerance” policy, the Trump administration has elected to prosecute those who enter or re-enter the country illegally, even as their asylum claims are being processed. Ostensibly this is to discourage immigrants and refugees alike from evading Customs and Border Protection. In practice, officials have made it increasingly difficult for the latter group to find legal asylum altogether.

“Some immigrants who try to seek asylum the ‘right way’ are being turned away and told there’s no room for them now,” writes Vox’s Dara Lind. “And there’s evidence that border agents are physically blocking some asylum seekers from setting foot on U.S. soil—in other words, from triggering a legal right to claim asylum in the U.S.—to begin with.”

Citing Texas Monthly’s Robert Moore, Lind reflects on a caravan of Guatemalan emigres who recently attempted to cross a bridge connecting Ciudad Juárez in Mexico to El Paso, Texas. In Moore’s telling, CBP officials turned the group back at the physical border of the United States, claiming that the nearest port of entry had no room to process asylum claims. (The three who managed to cross over were reluctantly ushered through.)

Federal law guarantees that anybody seeking refuge without legal status is entitled to an interview to determine the credibility of his or her claim, while international law prohibits the U.S. from denying entry to those escaping persecution or from returning them to their home countries.

Although Lind acknowledges the CBP “simply [doesn’t] have room to house all the people who come in seeking asylum while they’re initially processed,” she nonetheless observes that the federal government has no plans to marshal resources to its checkpoints, even as its draconian new practices should, in theory, direct more asylum seekers their way. “The only way that wouldn’t result in more people coming through at ports of entry,” she concludes, “would be if asylum seekers ended up not trying to come to the U.S. at all.”

On Monday, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., was physically barred from entering a detention center run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Brownsville, Texas, where children who had been separated from their parents at the border were reportedly incarcerated. At another, he claims to have seen “cages that looked a lot like dog kennels.”

“I wanted to be able to visit the facility where apparently upwards of 1,000 children are being held in that massive building, a former Walmart,” he told CBS. “The federal government, President Trump and team, Attorney General Sessions, Homeland Security, they do not want members of Congress or the public to know what’s going on.”

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Jacob Sugarman
Managing Editor
Jacob Sugarman is the acting managing editor at Truthdig. He is a graduate of the Arthur L. Carter Institute of Journalism whose writing has appeared in Salon, AlterNet and Tablet, among other…
Jacob Sugarman

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