In America, naturalized citizens no longer have an assumption of permanence

Masha Gessen writes:

Last week, it emerged that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (U.S.C.I.S.) had formed a task force in order to identify people who lied on their citizenship applications and to denaturalize them. Amid the overwhelming flow of reports of families being separated at the border and children being warehoused, this bit of bureaucratic news went largely unnoticed. But it adds an important piece to our understanding of how American politics and culture are changing.

Like many of the Trump Administration’s sadistic immigration innovations, the new task force doesn’t reflect a change in the law. In fact, like a number of practices, including mass deportations, it builds on the legacy of the Obama Administration, which set in motion the process of reëxamining old naturalization files. L. Francis Cissna, the director of U.S.C.I.S., told the Associated Press that his agency is looking for people who “should not have been naturalized in the first place”—for example, those who had been ordered to be deported earlier and obtained citizenship under a different name—and this sounds reasonable enough. It’s the apparent underlying premise that makes this new effort so troublesome: the idea that America is under attack by malevolent immigrants who cause dangerous harm by finding ways to live here. [Continue reading…]

Record-high 75% of Americans say immigration is good thing

Gallup:

A record-high 75% of Americans, including majorities of all party groups, think immigration is a good thing for the U.S. — up slightly from 71% last year. Just 19% of the public considers immigration a bad thing.

The latest findings are based on a Gallup poll conducted June 1-13, a key time for immigration reform in the U.S. as the House of Representatives debates the issue. The House will vote this week on two pieces of legislation that address several key immigration policy reforms. Among them are the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally at a young age with their parents and the border wall that has been the cornerstone of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy. [Continue reading…]

Trump’s racism is impossible to hide

David A Graham writes:

One of the paradoxes of modern-day American politics is that white identity politics can be a potent political platform, as long as you don’t call it that. Policies with racist effects are often popular; explicit racism is verboten.

Thus Donald Trump can win the presidency while running, as my colleague Adam Serwer documented, on a program of discrimination, but when Corey Stewart, a Republican politician in Virginia, makes his white-identity politics too explicit he gets shunned by the GOP.

Sometimes, however, the president’s mask slips, usually at moments of national crisis, and he says the quiet part loud, as The Simpsons memorably put it. This happened after race riots in Charlottesville, when Trump insisted there were good people among the white-supremacist marchers. And it’s happening again now in the context of separating families at the borders.

After days of insisting, falsely, that the separations were the result of some Democratic-passed law, the president has partially shifted gears, defending the policy in a series of tweets. The most shocking is this one, with its description of unauthorized immigrants as an “infestation”:

Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2018

In late May, a debate erupted after Trump said, during a roundtable in California, “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in—and we’re stopping a lot of them—but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.” The White House said that in context, it was clear that Trump had been referring to members of the gang MS-13. Others argued that given Trump’s previous language about immigrants, he didn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, or that even if he did, the result of the comments was to dehumanize immigrants.

Trump left himself no such plausible deniability in Tuesday’s tweet. [Continue reading…]

Last month, Katy Steinmetz wrote:

When President Donald Trump sat at a roundtable on Wednesday and referred to certain immigrants as “animals,” he was engaging in a practice that has been around for millennia. Go back to ancient Mesopotamia and there are examples of people using language to describe other humans as something less than human, whether insects or parasites or donkeys. “It really goes back to the beginning of history,” says David Livingstone Smith, a professor of philosophy at the University of New England. And, he says, it’s always been a dangerous way of thinking.

Trump has since insisted on a distinction, even as Mexico has protested: He wasn’t talking about all undocumented immigrants but only those who are members of the gang MS-13. Smith, who wrote a book called Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others, says that doesn’t justify the language Trump used (which he has deployed many times before). “Part of the psychology of this sort of thing is that people generalize,” he says. What happens when a powerful figure like the President makes that comparison, Smith explains, is essentially people think, immigrants = evil = monsters.

Many people who were offended by Trump’s language in turn made dehumanizing comments of their own on Twitter, saying that Trump — or anyone who continues to support him — are the real animals. But that is falling prey to the same bad instinct. “We often dehumanize the dehumanizers, as if to say, ‘This has nothing to do with us,’” Smith says, “and that really prevents us from understanding that we’re all vulnerable to forming these kinds of derogatory attitudes towards others.” Smith suggests that sets us back in eradicating this kind of behavior altogether.

One reason that experts raise flags about such language is that dehumanizing words are often precursors to sticks and stones, because they “disable inhibitions against acts of harm,” as Smith puts it. [Continue reading…]

The easiest way of reducing crime in America is to welcome more immigrants, both legal and undocumented

Christopher Ingraham writes:

The Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies are predicated, in part, upon the notion that immigrants who are in the country illegally represent a threat to public safety.

The White House, for instance, has sent out regular email blasts to reporters with alarmist accounts of crime committed by undocumented immigrants. President Trump has frequently exaggerated the threat posed by MS-13, a criminal gang originating in Los Angeles whose members tend to be from Central American countries. On Tuesday he wrote on Twitter, without evidence, that Democrats “don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.”

But the social-science research on immigration and crime is clear: Undocumented immigrants are considerably less likely to commit crime than native-born citizens, with immigrants legally in the United States even less likely to do so. A number of studies published in the past several months clearly illustrate the consensus.

The first study, published by the libertarian Cato Institute in February, examines criminal conviction data for 2015 provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety. It found that native-born residents were much more likely to be convicted of a crime than immigrants in the country legally or illegally.

“As a percentage of their respective populations, there were 56 percent fewer criminal convictions of illegal immigrants than of native-born Americans in Texas in 2015,” author Alex Nowrasteh writes. “The criminal conviction rate for legal immigrants was about 85 percent below the native-born rate.” [Continue reading…]

The CATO study states:

Natives were convicted of 409,063 crimes, illegal immigrants were convicted of 13,753 crimes, and legal immigrants were convicted of 7,643 crimes in Texas in 2015. Thus, there were 1,749 criminal convictions of natives for every 100,000 natives, 782 criminal convictions of illegal immigrants for every 100,000 illegal immigrants, and 262 criminal convictions of legal immigrants for every 100,000 legal immigrants.

It can happen here

Cass R. Sunstein writes:

Liberal democracy has enjoyed much better days. Vladimir Putin has entrenched authoritarian rule and is firmly in charge of a resurgent Russia. In global influence, China may have surpassed the United States, and Chinese president Xi Jinping is now empowered to remain in office indefinitely. In light of recent turns toward authoritarianism in Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and the Philippines, there is widespread talk of a “democratic recession.” In the United States, President Donald Trump may not be sufficiently committed to constitutional principles of democratic government.

In such a time, we might be tempted to try to learn something from earlier turns toward authoritarianism, particularly the triumphant rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s. The problem is that Nazism was so horrifying and so barbaric that for many people in nations where authoritarianism is now achieving a foothold, it is hard to see parallels between Hitler’s regime and their own governments. Many accounts of the Nazi period depict a barely imaginable series of events, a nation gone mad. That makes it easy to take comfort in the thought that it can’t happen again.

But some depictions of Hitler’s rise are more intimate and personal. They focus less on well-known leaders, significant events, state propaganda, murders, and war, and more on the details of individual lives. They help explain how people can not only participate in dreadful things but also stand by quietly and live fairly ordinary days in the midst of them. They offer lessons for people who now live with genuine horrors, and also for those to whom horrors may never come but who live in nations where democratic practices and norms are under severe pressure. [Continue reading…]

What’s happening in Trump’s America is as evil and criminal as what happened to me and my siblings in Nazi Europe

Yoka Verdoner writes:

The events occurring now on our border with Mexico, where children are being removed from the arms of their mothers and fathers and sent to foster families or “shelters”, make me weep and gnash my teeth with sadness and rage. I know what they are going through. When we were children, my two siblings and I were also taken from our parents. And the problems we’ve experienced since then portend the terrible things that many of these children are bound to suffer.

My family was Jewish, living in 1942 in the Netherlands when the country was occupied by the Nazis. We children were sent into hiding, with foster families who risked arrest and death by taking us in. They protected us, they loved us, and we were extremely lucky to have survived the war and been well cared for.

Yet the lasting damage inflicted by that separation reverberates to this day, decades hence.

Have you heard the screams and seen the panic of a three-year-old when it has lost sight of its mother in a supermarket? That scream subsides when mother reappears around the end of the aisle.

This is my brother writing in recent years. He tries to deal with his lasting pain through memoir. It’s been 76 years, yet he revisits the separation obsessively. He still writes about it in the present tense:

In the first home I scream for six weeks. Then I am moved to another family, and I stop screaming. I give up. Nothing around me is known to me. All those around me are strangers. I have no past. I have no future. I have no identity. I am nowhere. I am frozen in fear. It is the only emotion I possess now. As a three-year-old child, I believe that I must have made some terrible mistake to have caused my known world to disappear. I spend the rest of my life trying desperately not to make another mistake. [Continue reading…]

What’s going on at the border is horrifying, but we can’t go numb and turn away

Dahlia Lithwick writes:

As a purely descriptive matter, it’s surely true: We are all going numb. As Donald Trump makes war with Canada and peace with dictators and human rights abusers, the narrative is that everyone’s lost all feeling. Polls show the public believes that Trump paid off a porn star, and they don’t care. They believe that he lies habitually, and they also don’t care. A Pew poll released last week showed that nearly 7 in 10 Americans “feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days,” which is how we end up with real journalists like Chuck Todd pushing a humorous pharmaceutical solution to the problem of constant breaking news destroying our minds.

On Monday alone, we learned that the Trump administration is planning to denaturalize U.S. citizens who—it claims—fraudulently obtained citizenship. Also on Monday, America witnessed a change in immigration policy that will deny asylum to women fleeing domestic abuse, on the grounds that it’s a “private” harm. We witnessed a ramping up and coordinated defense of a Trump administration policy of separating families seeking asylum. That policy is resulting in children being warehoused in cages and ripped away from their parents, as their mothers are told they are bathing. Their. Mothers. Are. Told. They. Are. Bathing. A Honduran father seeking asylum hanged himself in a Texas jail after his wife and 3-year-old were separated from him at the border.

Jeff Sessions tells a horrified Hugh Hewitt that this forced separation policy is purely instrumental because we must “send a message” to future asylum-seekers that “if people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out.” As Jessica Winter observes, this is the “I only beat her because she made me do it” logic that domestic abusers use to blame their victims. [Continue reading…]

Laura Bush: Separating children from their parents at the border ‘breaks my heart’

Former first lady of the United States, Laura Bush, writes:

On Sunday, a day we as a nation set aside to honor fathers and the bonds of family, I was among the millions of Americans who watched images of children who have been torn from their parents. In the six weeks between April 19 and May 31, the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers or foster care. More than 100 of these children are younger than 4 years old. The reason for these separations is a zero-tolerance policy for their parents, who are accused of illegally crossing our borders.

I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned. [Continue reading…]

Child abuse is now part of America’s official immigration policy

Michael Paarlberg writes:

It’s impossible to look at the Trump administration’s practice of migrant family separation and see it as anything other than what it is: institutionalized child abuse.

By now, there have been real horror stories: parents hearing their children screaming in the next room; a man who committed suicide when his three-year-old was taken from him; children kept in what Oregon senator Jeff Merkley described as a “dog kennel”; a woman being told by a border patrol agent: “You will never see your children again. Families don’t exist here. You won’t have a family any more.”

Enough of these stories have come out that any questions of them being isolated incidents have been put to rest. These are not actions by rogue agents. They are systematic, and they come straight from the top. Indeed, attorney general Jeff Sessions has acknowledged as much, announcing in May a policy which had already been in practice for much of the past year.

Adults caught crossing the border illegally are transferred to criminal custody to be prosecuted for that crime – a misdemeanor – including those exercising their legal right to seek asylum. Their children are taken from them and placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services as “unaccompanied minors”. Sessions has equated parents with human traffickers: “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.”

The trauma caused by these separations for parents and their children is not an unfortunate byproduct of a necessary legal process; it is the whole point. It is a punishment designed to be as grotesque as possible in order to scare other migrants. [Continue reading…]

Doctors concerned about ‘irreparable harm’ to children ripped apart from their parents by the U.S. government

NPR reports:

In South Texas, pediatricians started sounding the alarm weeks ago as migrant shelters began filling up with younger children separated from their parents after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

The concerned pediatricians contacted Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and she flew to Texas and visited a shelter for migrant children in the Rio Grande Valley. There, she saw a young girl in tears. “She couldn’t have been more than 2 years old,” Kraft says. “Just crying and pounding and having a huge, huge temper tantrum. This child was just screaming, and nobody could help her. And we know why she was crying. She didn’t have her mother. She didn’t have her parent who could soothe her and take care of her.”

The number of migrant children in U.S. government custody is soaring — partly the result of a policy decision by the Trump administration to separate children from their parents who are being prosecuted for unlawful entry. Hundreds of the children being held in shelters are under age 13.

Medical professionals, members of Congress and religious leaders are calling on the Trump administration to stop separating migrant families. [Continue reading…]