Trump keeps push­ing bro­ken zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy

Albany Times Union - - PERSPECTIVE -

In yet an­other sign of how reck­lessly Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has plowed for­ward on immigration, a fed­eral judge ruled Mon­day that, no, the pres­i­dent can­not scrap a 20-year-old le­gal set­tle­ment de­signed to pre­vent chil­dren from be­ing locked up in­def­i­nitely in immigration jails.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had asked U.S. Dis­trict Judge Dolly Gee to change the so-called Flores set­tle­ment, which bars the govern­ment from hold­ing un­doc­u­mented chil­dren in de­ten­tion cen­ters for more than 20 days, with or with­out their par­ents. The Flores set­tle­ment was wisely built on the premise that in­no­cent chil­dren should not be in cus­tody.

In her rul­ing, Gee said the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s move to change the set­tle­ment was a “cyn­i­cal at­tempt” to shift immigration pol­icy-mak­ing to the courts af­ter “over 20 years of con­gres­sional in­ac­tion and ill-con­sid­ered ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion that have led to the cur­rent stale­mate.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has en­acted zero-tol­er­ance poli­cies that are in­hu­mane, shock­ingly im­prac­ti­cal and poorly ex­e­cuted.

In May the ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan crim­i­nally charg­ing all adults en­ter­ing the U.S. il­le­gally from Mex­ico and sep­a­rat­ing them from their chil­dren un­der the inane as­sump­tion that it would de­ter im­mi­grants flee­ing vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion. When out­rage erupted glob­ally, the ad­min­is­tra­tion hastily adopted a plan to lock up the fam­i­lies to­gether — hence its need to al­ter the Flores set­tle­ment.

But Trump ig­nored the lessons his pre­de­ces­sor learned the hard way. Dur­ing the surge of un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors and fam­i­lies f lee­ing vi­o­lence in Cen­tral Amer­ica in 2014, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion de­tained fam­i­lies to try to de­ter oth­ers from mak­ing the trip and at­tempted to amend the Flores set­tle­ment. It ul­ti­mately aban­doned the pol­icy, how­ever, in the face of po­lit­i­cal back­lash and court or­ders. In­stead, it re­leased many mi­grant fam­i­lies while their immigration or asy­lum cases were pend­ing and worked to en­sure that they would re­turn for their court dates.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, by con­trast, has sought to turn up the pres­sure, tak­ing 3,000 chil­dren from their par­ents at the bor­der be­fore Trump re­lented. A judge then or­dered the ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­unite the fam­i­lies.

How many court rul­ings will it take? When will this ad­min­is­tra­tion rec­og­nize that the U.S. can­not fix its bro­ken immigration sys­tem with puni­tive, cruel poli­cies?

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