Current Affairs

This Week in Terrible Immigration News #4

What’s going on and what you can do about it…

Even though many of us care, abstractly, about immigration, it can be very hard to tell what exactly is going on in the world of immigration enforcement. Reporting on immigration issues in the mainstream media tends to be quite bad. Additionally, our immigration system, in terms of law and policy, is truly one of the most complicated and bewildering systems in existence, so its workings are difficult for sane human beings to comprehend. In “This Week In Terrible Immigration News,” I try to explain recent developments in immigration that I think are important for leftists, and human beings generally, to know and care about, and seek to untangle areas of confusion in mainstream reporting on immigration issues. I encourage readers to write in if there are other issues I’m missing that need greater attention or explanation.
All opinions expressed here are my own, and not on behalf of any organization or group.

I really should start calling this feature “This Month in Terrible Immigration News,” because realistically, based on this administration’s passionate commitment to hurting and killing immigrants, I am never going to have time to write these articles on a weekly basis. You see, the more pieces of terrible immigration news there are, the busier I am at my day job, and the less time I have to write anything! So it’s an endless feedback overload.

 In the past month, the government has rolled out a lot of punitive new immigration policies, which have been getting varying amounts of coverage in the media (mostly very little). I think it can be quite hard to see how all these overlapping policies fit together, so I’m going to do my best to explain. As I wrote last time about the Trump administration’s disruption and dismantlement of our asylum system:

The Trump administration is seeking to limit asylum eligibility by as many avenues as possible, and they don’t need all, or even most, of these tactics to succeed to accomplish their goals. Just for reference, here’s a list of a few of the things the government is simultaneously trying to push through:

  • Reduce legal protections for children in order to make them eligible for indefinite detention. Force parents to choose between being separated from their children or being detained alongside them. Then establish a broad policy of detention for all asylum-seekers throughout the duration of their proceedings.
  • Make virtually all asylum-seekers ineligible for bond, ensuring their indefinite detention.
  • Make everyone who crosses the border between ports of entry ineligible for asylum, while simultaneously blocking off all the ports of entry.
  • Return all non-Mexican asylum-seekers to Mexico for the duration of their proceedings.
  • Make all non-Mexicans who pass through Mexico on their way to the United States ineligible for asylum.
  • Use the Attorney General’s powers to reverse favorable case precedent for the legal theories that are most readily applicable to the people fleeing to our southern border.

There are significant redundancies (and even some slight contradictions) between these different policies: They don’t fit together neatly into a coherent whole. Trump’s immigration advisers know full well that some of these tactics are long shots. They’re simply trying to keep immigration advocates continuously busy with new legal battles, and maximize the slate of options available to the government when it wishes to punish people for seeking asylum. Really, only one of these policies needs to clear its legal hurdles for the government to radically restrict the right to seek asylum.

The Trump administration has been continuing this multi-pronged assault on asylum seekers by (TLDR) 1) expanding the Remain in Mexico program, which traps asylum-seekers in dangerous Mexican border cities, 2) denying asylum to people who travel through third countries on their way to the United States (this includes basically all asylum-seekers from Central America), 3) putting forward new regulations that would allow children to be detained indefinitely, with or without their parents, and 4) eliminating a whole category of asylum eligibility—the family-based claim—at a single stroke. Separately, just for sheer douchebaggery’s sake, the government has also 5) created a “wealth test” (which doubles as a de facto race test) for people wanting to apply for immigration status more generally, and 6) no longer allowing people with serious medical conditions to defer their deportations.

There are some additional shenanigans going on right now that I have personally observed but am not yet able to speak about. Suffice to say, things are very, very bad and getting worse fast. My friends at Current Affairs tell me that none of the issues I’m about to talk about came up at all at the most recent Democratic debate, so I’m glad to see that the horrors visited upon asylum-seekers continue to be an absolute bottom-tier priority for Democrats. They sure know how to scramble when DHS wants money to detain more kids, but can’t seem to do shit while the executive branch casually undoes decades of existing laws that have helped protect human beings from life-threatening violence. 

TLDR: What you can do about it

  • Call your currently-preferred presidential candidate and let them know that reversing the new asylum ban, ending MPP/Remain in Mexico, ending immigration detention, and dismantling the police state for immigrants are issues that matter to you. Encourage them to attend one of the mass court proceedings in El Paso for asylum-seekers placed in MPP, for example, and bring more press to the issue. Encourage them to visit the Mexican side of the border across from San Diego, El Paso, Eagle Pass, Laredo, or another place where asylum-seekers are being blocked from crossing or forced to return, to see the conditions there. For your reference, Bernie Sanders’ staff can be reached at 202-224-5141, 802-862-0697, or 800-339-9834, while Elizabeth Warren’s staff can be reached at 202-224-4543, 617-565-3170, or 413-788-2690.
  • If your currently-preferred presidential candidate is Bernie Sanders, call him and ask if he’s read Elizabeth Warren’s and Julián Castro’s immigration plans, and inquire how he plans to improve upon them. I would like to be able to vote for Bernie in the primary, but I sure as hell am not going to unless he makes some kind of serious commitment on immigration. (I know he doesn’t care what I think! I just have to pretend I have some tiny shred of agency in order to keep going!)
  • Participate in (or organize!) an anti-ICE protest near you. The more people physically obstructing DHS operations, in increasingly visible ways, the better.
  • When and if your schedule allows, start visiting the immigration court nearest you and sitting in on hearings. Except under special circumstances, immigration court proceedings are open to the public. Attending immigration court serves a couple useful purposes. One, I think it’s good for judges and government attorneys to know that someone is watching them; the presence of a member of the public is at least some minor form of accountability. Second, you really won’t understand the inhumanity of this system until you see it: the way the law is applied to real human beings, the way immigrants must struggle to navigate a byzantine system, the way judges render decisions based on rationales that have no relevance to immigrants’ actual lived experience and which fly in the face of any observer’s basic moral instincts. I think this kind of observation is the best way for the public to learn what our immigration laws really mean.

All right—now let’s dive in.

1) The “Migrant Protection Protocols,” a.k.a. “Remain in Mexico,” is now in effect across the entire border, trapping more than 30,000 asylum-seekers in Mexico and separating numerous families.

As I’ve written in previous updates, the “Migrant Protection Protocols” is a misleadingly-named program under which asylum-seekers are given court dates in the United States but, between each court date, are forced to stay in Mexico—where there is absolutely no infrastructure in place to physically support and protect them, much less to provide them with legal services. This means stranding resourceless asylum-seekers, including families with small children, in Mexican border towns with very high murder rates. Doctors Without Borders has stated that these cities (many of which are dominated by cartels, and by law enforcement and military units that are just as violent and predatory) are functionally war zones. MPP is so inhumane that even the union for Asylum Officers, who are employees of the Department of Homeland Security, has publicly spoken out against the program, and provided supporting evidence for a lawsuit seeking to halt it. As of the end of July, MPP has finally been expanded to Brownsville, meaning that it is now in effect across the entire southern border. Not every single person who comes to the border to seek asylum is placed in MPP, but it’s being inflicted on an increasingly large number of asylum-seekers. As of three weeks ago, around 30,000 people were in the program, and that number has been growing ever since.

Because there are no immigration courts in most of the border towns where asylum-seekers will be bussed in for their hearings, giant tents are being erected and filled with teleconferencing equipment so that hearings can be conducted remotely en masse. Normally, immigration court proceedings are open to the public, but access to these tent facilities is restricted to government contractors and lawyers who have already signed agreements with clients, meaning journalists, members of the public, and lawyers hoping to advise unrepresented clients of their rights will not be able to get in. Nothing says “fair immigration system” like exhausted migrants being mass-denied asylum in a giant tent by a disembodied face.

This recent article from CBS provides a glimpse of the brutality and unfairness of the hearings under this program. To give you an idea:

Like most of the other migrants seeking asylum in court that day, Ana, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala’s western highlands, sat alone at the defendant’s desk, without a lawyer at her side. 

Soon after she took her seat in one of the small, cold courtrooms in the seventh floor immigration court in downtown El Paso, the visibly distressed asylum seeker from Guatemala begged the presiding judge in her fast-moving, fragmented Spanish not to return her to Mexico.

“Leave me in a cell, please. Leave me in a cell,” she told Judge Nathan Herbert, who listened to her plea through a court translator.

… the Q’anjob’al interpreter was eventually found and through him, Herbert told Ana he could give her more time to find an attorney. She again told him she’s been trying for weeks to find one to no avail.

… “I’m pleading with you to help me,” she said minutes before the next asylum seeker on the docket was escorted inside the courtroom. “Help me.”

… One mother, who came to court in crutches, told the judge she, her husband and young son were frightened about returning to Ciudad Juárez, where she said she was assaulted.

Herbert’s responses to the pleas of migrants in his courtroom—who were convinced he wielded the categorical power to take them out of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program and allow them to stay in the U.S. — were nearly identical.

“I don’t have the authority to let you stay here,” the judge told one young father who came to court with his 3-year-old son.

“I don’t have the authority to take you out of this program,” he told one family after the father said they feared being returned to Mexico and wanted to stay in El Paso.

The truth is that the MPP program, by the government’s intention and design, deliberately places asylum-seekers in danger in order to coerce them into giving up their claims. NPR has reported on how cartels in Mexico have been deliberately targeting migrants, and those who set up shelters to try to protect them—the director of a shelter in Nuevo Laredo was recently kidnapped after refusing to hand over migrants to a cartel, and has not been seen since. These cities are, it bears repeating, incredibly dangerous. Although particularly vulnerable immigrants are, according to DHS’s own policies, not supposed to be placed in MPP, disabled people, LGBT people, and heavily pregnant women have all been returned to Mexico under the program in numerous documented instances.

Anecdotally, based on stories I have heard in the detention center where I work, I also know that the government is using the program to separate families: For example, if a set of parents crosses with children, they may let half the family into the United States, and send the other half of the family back to Mexico. Or, if someone crosses with a child over the age of 18, the older child may be sent to Mexico completely alone, while the mother and younger children are let into the United States. The family members allowed into the United States live with the daily terror of not knowing whether their spouses and children trapped in Mexico will be trafficked, extorted, kidnapped, and/or murdered. It’s hard to imagine any psychological torture more monstrous than this. 

2) Anyone who crosses the southern land border after transiting through a third country is now ineligible for asylum.

You may remember from our last episode that the government had rolled out an “interim final rule” declaring that asylum-seekers who approach the southern border will be ineligible for asylum in the United States unless they (1) have already applied for asylum in another country and been denied there, (2) have only passed through countries that aren’t signatories to the Refugee Convention or the Convention Against Torture (which is pretty much geographically impossible for people from Central America), or (3) have been victims of “severe” human trafficking (whatever the hell that means—thus far, I’m not aware of anyone the government has deemed to qualify for this exception). This rule only applies at the southern border, not at the northern border or other ports of entry, because this is very clearly a racist ban designed to target Central Americans.

Two lawsuits were filed against this new rule, and one of them (brought by the ACLU and others in the Ninth Circuit) resulted in an injunction on July 24, meaning that the rule couldn’t be applied anywhere in the country. After a series of back-and-forth rulings by the Ninth Circuit (which for a period of time allowed the ban to be applied in Texas and New Mexico, but not in California and Arizona, for extremely stupid reasons), the government appealed the whole thing up to the Supreme Court. In their infinite wisdom, the Supreme Court split the baby in half, deciding that the entire nationwide injunction should be stayed, meaning that the ban immediately went back into effect across the entire border. I would like to point out that both Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan voted along with the majority to allow the asylum ban to go back into effect, because even so-called “liberal” judges are solipsistic navel-gazers who do not care whether anyone in the real world lives or dies.

So, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster on the border, procedurally speaking! What does this all mean? There’s been no ruling on the merits of the case yet—that is, whether the asylum ban is actually lawful. But what the Supreme Court has decided is that while the case is pending, the ban should be allowed to go into effect, possibly because of some bullshit “standing” argument (a stupid thing only litigators and judges care about) or because the Supreme Court believes the government’s arguments in favor of the ban have merit. 

Now, just because someone isn’t eligible for asylum doesn’t mean they can be automatically deported. Asylum is a discretionary benefit that the government can choose to grant or not grant according to whatever domestic law framework they want. (The government’s new ban still conflicts with existing domestic law starkly enough that it’s probably outside the executive’s current discretionary range; but honestly who the hell knows, the courts routinely allow the executive branch to do whatever the fuck they want on immigration enforcement.) But the U.S. government still has an obligation under international law not to deport people who meet the legal definition of a refugee, even if the government chooses not to give them “asylum” benefits. The United States has historically met this obligation through a form of status called “withholding of removal.” It’s a shit status, frankly, because it doesn’t have a path to a green card, doesn’t allow you to sponsor or confer status on relatives (not even your minor children who fled the country alongside you), and doesn’t guarantee you any ability to re-enter the United States after leaving or have access to any kind of state benefits. But it is security from deportation.

So, virtually no one crossing the southern border is currently eligible for asylum, but they are still eligible for “withholding of removal” (as well as protection under the Convention Against Torture, which is a topic for another time; suffice to say, it’s hard to get). Now, one problem is that, under U.S. law, the standard of proof for “withholding of removal” is higher than the standard for “asylum.” Under existing law, an adjudicator (who might be an immigration judge or a DHS asylum officer) is supposed to grant asylum if there’s even a 10 percent chance that the applicant would suffer persecution in their home country. If you’re ineligible for asylum and are seeking withholding, then you have to show a 51 percent chance of persecution. (Imagine: You flee your home country because a gang member has threatened to kill your family, but the bored immigration judge on the TV screen thinks your odds of being killed for a legally protected reason are only 50/50. Sorry!) These numbers are totally subjective, of course, but the higher standard gives adjudicators an excuse to be harsher. This is especially significant for people who are crossing the border right now, because lots of them get put into a super-fast extrajudicial deportation proceeding you may have heard of, called “expedited removal.” This means that the government can expel you immediately without a hearing or any other due process, unless you state that you are afraid to return to your home country, at which point you are entitled to a screening interview. Adjudicators at these screening interviews are, from my observation, now using the asylum ban as an excuse to unilaterally deny claims of fear that previously would have qualified, under the vague auspices that the standard is more “stringent.” This means asylum-seekers will potentially be deported from the border rapidly and in very large numbers in the near future.

I am not sure what more to say about this, except that the appellate court in the Ninth Circuit and a majority of the Supreme Court have, through their recent actions, condemned a lot of people to misery and death. Honestly, I hope none of these judges ever eat in a restaurant again without being vigorously spat upon by concerned members of the public. (The same goes for Trump administration officials as well, obviously.)

3) The government has put forward new regulations that would slash the few protections that currently exist for child asylum-seekers and allow for their indefinite detention.

Currently, although the government has the virtually unlimited ability to throw adult immigrants into “non-punitive” detention for indefinite periods of time with no due process, there are some rules in place about when and how the government can detain immigrant children. These rules come from the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement—basically, this was an agreement hashed out by a court in California in order to settle a lawsuit brought by a child plaintiff against the government, which established binding rules about the detention of children. Under these rules, the absolute maximum period of time that a child can be held in a secure facility under emergency conditions is 20 days. After that, if the government can’t legally deport the child, the government must either a) release the child to a sponsor, or b) place the child in a licensed, non-secure facility while continuing to make and document continuous ongoing efforts to release the child to a sponsor. Although the Flores Settlement Agreement could be replaced or overruled by superseding congressional legislation at any time, the only other way for the executive to get out of the agreement is by establishing regulations that are “not inconsistent” with the terms of the Flores Settlement.

Recently, the government has put forward new regulations that purport to replace Flores. They allow for the long-term detention of children alongside their parents in facilities that will be licensed internally according to DHS’s own standards. (You’ll recall that the government recently argued in court that children didn’t need toothbrushes or soap in detention, so I’m sure DHS can be trusted to internally regulate a system of child jails.) One of the main reasons the government is doing this is because the Flores settlement, read in conjunction with other statutory provisions, essentially requires the government to release mothers who cross the border with their children under most circumstances, as long at least one member of the family passes a screening interview with the Asylum Office. The government hates having to release these families—that was why they tried out that “zero tolerance” family separation policy last year, using criminal charges to make it possible to separate mothers from children and deport mothers without their children, rather than releasing families together. 

Now, these new regulations have to be approved by a federal judge before they can go into effect, and the judge who oversees the Flores Settlement Agreement, Judge Gee, has told the government where to go stuff it on many occasions in the past, so it’s perhaps reasonable to hope that these new regulations may be dead in the water. But we’ll have to wait and see. I am sure the government will keep trying until they find a way to do exactly what they want.

4) The Attorney General has unilaterally eliminated an entire category of asylum eligibility, undoing decades of case precedent.

You may remember that last year—although it feels like it was about 500 years ago—Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to block domestic violence survivors from qualifying for asylum protection through his ruling in a case called Matter of A-B-. This happened shortly before the Trump administration started implementing its systematic family separation policy, and there was a lot of press coverage and public outrage around the government’s targeted assault on women and families. Now, in a case called Matter of L-E-A-, current Attorney General William Barr has used the exact same legal maneuver to try to block a different category of asylum claim: claims based on family membership. This decision is getting much, much less press than the domestic violence case of last year, I think because people don’t really understand the significance of the decision (which isn’t surprising). However, Matter of L-E-A- is poised to ruin the claims of just as many asylum-seekers. It is, perhaps, even more dangerous than Sessions’ decision in Matter of A-B- (portions of which are currently tied up in litigation) because Matter of L-E-A- is better-written, makes fewer obvious legal errors, and will therefore likely prove more difficult to challenge.

A quick review of asylum (and these same rules also apply to withholding of removal, that non-asylum status I discussed in item 2 above): In order to qualify, you have to show that you have a fear of suffering harm severe enough to be considered “persecution” in your home country, inflicted either by your government or by entities your government is unwilling or unable to protect you from. You also have to show that this harm would be inflicted “on account of” one of the five reasons protected under asylum law: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or “membership in a particular social group.” What this means is that an adjudicator could be 100 percent convinced that you were about to be deported back to certain death, but if they didn’t think you were going to be killed because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, you don’t qualify for anything and can be blithely sent home to be murdered. Such are our laws.

This poses a particular problem for asylum-seekers from Central America, many of whom are fleeing violence from gangs and other organized criminal groups. Many asylum adjudicators simply do not accept that resistance to a gang—even extremely explicit resistance, like refusing to join the gang under threat of death—qualifies as a political opinion. Now, you could try to argue that you qualify for some “particular social group” defined by gang resistance, but the case law around what constitutes a particular social group is very weird, convoluted, and internally contradictory, so these arguments often don’t work.

One legal theory that’s helped save a lot of people from danger is the “family-based claim.” Essentially, there’s a long-standing body of asylum case law which supports the idea that if you’re being targeted for persecution because someone is mad at one of your family members, or at your family more generally, you can qualify for asylum. Since gangs and other such groups frequently threaten to torture and kill people’s family members in order to force them into compliance with their demands, this theory has provided a common basis for people to be granted asylum. Now, you might be thinking, “why would it make sense to grant someone asylum because they belong to a particular family, but not because they proactively resisted a gang, which seems like an even bigger deal?” Look, I’m not saying it makes sense, none of this makes sense. Our entire immigration system is basically just one big dog-and-pony show, except the U.S. public might actually give a shit if dogs and ponies were being killed instead of impoverished Central Americans. Nevertheless: The family-based claim is one that judges have been willing to accept for many years, and so it’s saved a lot of lives.

With the new decision in Matter of L-E-A-, this theory has basically been destroyed. In order to prevail on a family-based claim, says AG Barr, you now have to show that your family is distinct on a societal level. In other words, if you’re being threatened because you’re a Kennedy, great, you might qualify; but if you’re being threatened because you’re related to your brother, who’s a nobody, you don’t qualify. (This ruling, incidentally, runs explicitly contrary to case law in multiple circuits, which state that the nuclear family is in fact the prototypical particular social group and doesn’t need any other marks of distinction to qualify.) The government targeted the family-based claim specifically because they knew that this theory has helped a lot of people, and specifically Central Americans, win asylum or pass their initial screening interviews. 

The fact that a sitting Attorney General appointed by the president can just reach in and alter existing case precedent however he sees fit is one of the most absurd and authoritarian features of our immigration system. The executive branch is allowed a level of direct control over immigration case outcomes that certainly doesn’t exist in real Article III courts (the ones housed under the judicial branch), but is even unusual for administrative Article I courts (housed under the executive branch). Both Julián Castro and Elizabeth Warren’s immigration plans call for the immigration court system to be remade as independent Article I courts that won’t be subject to this kind of direct executive intervention. This would be a small but significant improvement to a deeply unfair court system. “Procedural integrity” is not something I care much about as an abstract matter, but I think the danger of reposing so much unaccountable power in the Attorney General seems pretty clear.

5) The government is now imposing a “wealth test” on individuals seeking to adjust their immigration status.

This is very old news by this point, but the Department of Homeland Security is planning to significantly expand the circumstances under which an immigrant can be deemed “a public charge” and subsequently denied immigration status. The “public charge” rule has been around for a while; it means that immigrants who are otherwise qualified for green cards or other forms of status remain ineligible if they are “primarily dependent on the government for assistance” a.k.a., if they are enrolled in certain public assistance programs. Now, this wasn’t always a huge roadblock up until now, because immigrants are actually ineligible for most of the benefits that would have otherwise caused them to be deemed a “public charge,” so the whole thing was sort of moot.

However, under the expanded “public charge” rule, immigrants will now be ineligible to obtain green cards if they have previously used government assistance (a wider range of benefits than was previously defined under the rule, such as Section 8 housing assistance, which is something certain immigrants can actually apply for) or if the government deems that they have a “likelihood” of using such benefits in the future, based on factors like age, illnesses, disabilities, education, employment history, family size, and financial situation. Immigrants must now also show that they have personal financial resources that are at least 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (to give you an idea, that’s $32,187 a year for a family of four), with 250 percent being a “heavily weighted positive factor.”

The long and short of this is that poor people, disabled people, and elderly people will all be disproportionately impacted by this rule, which further reinforces the notion that only wealthy, credentialed people deserve to have status in the United States. There would also be a massive disparate racial impact. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that, among legally present noncitizens, “71 percent of Mexicans and Central Americans, 69 percent of Africans, and 52 percent of Asian immigrants would fail to meet the [250 percent] threshold,” while “64 percent of recent Canadian and European legal noncitizens had incomes over the 250 percent threshold.”

6) Sick immigrants won’t receive the slightest shred of mercy from DHS.

A small final fuck-you: The government used to grant deferrals of deportation to immigrants with serious medical conditions, on a discretionary, case-by-case basis. This was called “medical deferred action” and it would allow you a two-year reprieve from deportation if you could prove that you were very seriously ill. Previously, these deferrals had been granted by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), the same DHS agency that handles administrative applications. Now USCIS is denying all requests for medical deferred action and saying that ICE is going to be responsible for making those choices from now on. USCIS—which is now under the control of Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli, one of the worst human beings on the planet—actually advocated for itself to be stripped of this discretionary power, writing in a memo: “USCIS strongly believes that the exercise of deferred action is subject to abuse, and if we continue to accept such requests, even with narrow medical criteria, we will be creating a de facto ‘program’ of criteria … which are not enumerated in statute or regulations.” It’s quite clear that once ICE gains authority over the deferral process, they have no intention of granting any requests that come their way; in a separate memo, ICE noted: “ICE does not accept any requests for deferred action nor does it accept affirmative requests for prosecutorial discretion for aliens in removal proceedings. Moreover, ICE has no processes or procedures to consider prosecutorial discretion requests for aliens who have yet to come to ICE’s attention.”

Per this Politico article: “Beginning Aug. 7, USCIS sent letters to approximately 400 deferred action applicants that said the agency would no longer process their deferred action requests. The letters instructed the applicants to depart the country within 33 days.” Among those who will be deported are critically sick children:

Consider the case of Marie and her 13-year-old son. They were visiting Boston in 2013 when the boy fell ill. He was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, a genetic condition for which he’s been treated at Boston Medical Center. She filed for medical deferred action almost immediately and they were approved in 2017. The status, valid for two years, meant she could get a work permit and he would be granted MassHealth and afford access to life-saving care. She is required to bring him into BMC for monitoring every two months; otherwise acute problems might arise that can result in brain damage or kidney failure, she said. Last week, Marie got a denial letter from US Citizenship and Immigration Services after filing for a renewal. They were instructed to leave within 33 days or else risk deportation.

Now I’m not saying that children are the only people deserving of compassion, by any means: but they are the canary in the coal mine. When a government is willing to do shit like this to kids, they are really capable of doing anything to anyone.

I know that reading about immigration can be painful and horrifying, and if you’ve made it this far, I’m grateful. Whenever I talk about my job to people, I feel like a massive buzzkill, which is no fun—but once you see the misery of this system up close, I promise you, there is no glib political argument that will ever convince you that detention and deportation are morally excusable exercises of state power. We all need to keep learning and writing and reporting and agitating about the ever-increasing evils of our immigration system, even if they’re not nearly as fun to talk about as, say, a canceled comedian or a celebrity Twitter meltdown. The stakes are incredibly high. They’re life or death. Real human beings are in terrible danger; real children, real families fleeing unspeakable violence, real mothers and fathers who have been torn away from their loved ones and who have unable to see or touch them for years. The Trump administration’s unflagging effort to make immigration all but impossible for poor people of color, and the Democratic party’s general willingness to let them get away with it—as long as it’s happening in the shadows, as long as it doesn’t generate any unpleasant pictures on TV—should terrify all of us.

More In: This Week In Immigration News

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