Editorial: Zero tolerance for U.S. ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy

I’m angry these days. I try to hide it as best I can, but the piling up of atrocities committed by the Trump administration is taking its toll, and I doubt I’m the only one concealing a bubbling rage as I go about my day.

But the recently-implemented “zero tolerance” policy that has resulted in just shy of 2,000 children being taken from their parents from the border during a six-week period from April to May — and probably many more both before and after that time period — is horrifying even by Trumpian standards.

Notice I didn’t say “surprising.” A policy like this one is the natural outgrowth of someone holding office who describes undocumented immigrants fleeing persecution and danger in their home countries as “animals,” as Trump did before cameras on Wednesday, May 16, and who denigrates some nations as “shithole countries” as Trump is widely reported to have done in a closed-door January meeting discussing legal immigration.

Circumstances arranged themselves such that my son was born just a few days before Trump’s inauguration 17 months ago. Now a toddler, he looks a lot like the horrified small children accompanying their parents over the border, as documented by multiple news sources. The thought of them ripped from their parents arms, as has been happening on a daily basis on the U.S. border by U.S. immigration officials, haunts me. It is unconscionable.

And it’s happening in America’s name.

In order to defend the indefensible, Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted a Bible verse. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”

I hope that those with a genuine religious belief will understand and sympathize with my utter disgust for the use of such a passage in this case. I’d respond, as others have, with a quote from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “The devil can cite scripture for his purpose.” Trump, Sessions, and White House policy advisor Stephen Miller — who appears to be the author of the family-separation policy — play convincing devils on today’s world stage.

Trump is responding as he always does — that what looks bad is actually someone else’s fault. He blames Democrats for bad policy, and many of his supporters say that family separation happened under Obama.

But this blame game grows wearisome. This is Trump policy, defended by his staff as a way to show how cruel we are, and therefore deter migrants from entering the country. Families were rarely separated under the Obama administration, which worked to make exceptions to keep families together.

We are used to lies out of this administration. And we’re also used to cruelty. Backlash from some horrified Republicans (probably looking at how their party is likely to fare in November’s upcoming elections), has started to trickle out. They should be demanding not only the immediate halt of family separations, but also the resignations of both Miller and Sessions.

Hundreds were out in Northampton recently marching about this topic as part of the Pioneer Valley Women’s March. It’s a good start, as is Gov. Charlie Baker pulling back Massachusetts’ national guardsmen from the Mexico border.

But we need more. What we need is a surge of anti-Trump voters to flood the polls in November and get this cruel man and his underlings under control.

In the meantime, we hold our own children a little tighter, conscious of the real evil that exists close to home, and that but for accidents of circumstance, we might find our own children being forced from our arms.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@valleyadvocate.com.

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