Review of the separation of children from their parents, so far:
President Trump's administration introduced a new "zero tolerance" policy that directed Homeland Security officials to prosecute all cases of illegal entry into the US. Adults are accused of a criminal act and jailed. Their children are stored in separate facilities, some of which have been described as similar to dog kennels. Between 2018-APR-19 and MAY-31, border officials separated 1,995 children from 1,940 parents. By late JUN, the number of children had risen to about 2,399. Many of these immigrant families simply turned themselves in at the border to apply for asylum. They and their children were in extreme danger in their countries of origin.
2018-mid-JUN: The crisis continues:
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a U.S. nonpartisan fact-finding agency, issued a letter asking Attorney General Jefferson Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to halt the family separations. The letter says, in part, that the policy of separating children from their parents raises:
"... grave concerns ... about due process and coercive tactics that pressure migrants to withdraw valid asylum applications." 1
President Trump has claimed that the family separations are required because of previous laws passed by Democrats. However, the Huffington Post states that this is a false claim. 1
The Huffington Post repeated this story four days later, on JUN-18, saying:
"Trump has repeatedly lied about his administration’s role in family separations at the border ― and Monday was no different.
In a series of tweets, he echoed a familiar ― and false ― talking point his administration has used in reference to its immigration policy: blaming Democrats for border control officials’ taking thousands of children away from their parents." 2
Even if the Democrats were responsible for this obscenity, President Trump would have had about a year and a half to change the government policy.
According to the Canadian edition of Huffington Post:
"The practice of removing kids from their parents after illegally crossing the border has been called "unconscionable" by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. ..."
"The Canadian Press reports that [in Canada], 162 minors were detained or housed with their parents in ... immigration holding centres last year." 3 (Emphasis not in the original.)
Based on past behaviors, we assume that Huffington Post's description is accurate. According to CNN Politics on MAY-09, President Trump has lied more than 3,000 times in [his first] 466 days [in office]." 4 That is an average of 6.5 untrue or misleading statements a day. This number accelerated to nine during March and April. The Washington Post has a Fact-Checker blog that lists each one. 5
First lady Melania Trump's spokesperson issued a statement about the family separations. She said:
"Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart." 6
The four previous first ladies also made their opinions known:
Laura Bush wrote that the separation policy: "... breaks her heart. ... I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel."
Michelle Obama tweeted: "Sometimes truth transcends party."
Hillary Clinton said that the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy is a "moral and humanitarian crisis. ... We are a better country than one that tears families apart,"
Rosalynn Carter said: "The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents' care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country."
Conservative religious leader Franklin Graham said:
"I think it's disgraceful, it's terrible, to see families ripped apart, and I don't support that one bit. And I blame the politicians for the last twenty, thirty years that have allowed this to escalate to the point where it is today." 7
Federal Attorney General Sessions claimed that the Bible supports the separation of children from their parents in this case. He quoted Romans 13, where Paul wrote that people must obey the laws of their government:
"... because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful." 8
In short, Session seems to imply that, according to the Bible, governments can do no wrong.
In the King James Version of the Bible, the passage quoted from Romans 13:1-3 is sometimes titled "Submission to Lawful Authorities." It states:
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resisteth the [government's] power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same."
At the time that Paul wrote the book of Romans, Christians were being persecuted intermittently in the Roman Empire. Paul might have been motivated by a desire to assure the Empire that first century Christians were loyal citizens and did not pose a threat to the status quo, even though they did not worship the Empire's deities.
However, this passage obviously does not have universal application. Using Sessions' logic and biblical reference, one might argue that a citizen of Germany in the 1930's should have obeyed and supported the Nazi genocide organized against the Jewish, homosexual, and other populations in Europe. Obviously, there are ethical and moral limits to the application of Romans 13.
Some Christians and Christian groups also criticized the U.S. immigration policy:
The Vatican's Migrants and Refugees Section tweeted a comment by Pope Francis:
"The Bible teaches that God ‘loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were [once] foreigners in Egypt.’ (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)." 8
Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition said:
"Overwhelmingly, Scripture causes families to be kept together. Overwhelmingly Scripture causes us to defend families. As evangelicals, we have a doctrine to be a pro-family-values people. ... The Bible calls us to be pro-family, and I personally find it deeply lamentable that we are separating children from their parents at the border or anywhere." 8
It is unclear whether Salguero is referring only to families headed by opposite-sex parents, or to all families.
John Fea, a professor of U.S. history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA said:
“There are two dominant places in American history when Romans 13 ... [was] invoked. One is during the American Revolution [when] it was invoked by loyalists, those who opposed the American Revolution. ... The other [was] ... in the 1840s and 1850s, when Romans 13 is [sic] invoked by defenders of the South or defenders of slavery to ward off abolitionists who believed that slavery is wrong. ... this is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made."
On JUN-13, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly condemned the administration’s immigration policies as immoral. One bishop suggested that Federal employees who are Roman Catholic and who help carry out the Justice Department’s policies are violating their faith, and perhaps should be denied Communion. 8
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a member of the United Methodist Church (UMC). A group of over 600 clergy and members of the denomination has brought church charges against Sessions, accusing him of violating Paragraph 270.3 of their Book of Discipline with child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and "dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine of the United Methodist Church." They sent a letter to the pastors to both congregations that Sessions attends: the Ashland Place United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL, and the Clarendon United Methodist Church in Alexandria, VA saying:
"We write to you ... in the hopes that you will, as members of our connectional system, dig deeply into Mr. Sessions' advocacy and actions that have led to harm against thousands of vulnerable humans.
As members of the United Methodist Church, we deeply hope for a reconciling process that will help this longtime member of our connection step back from his harmful actions and work to repair the damage he is currently causing to immigrants, particularly children and families."
They also criticized Session's reference to Romans 13 which they said is "misuse" and in
"... stark contrast to disciplinary commitments to supporting freedom of conscience and resistance to unjust laws." 10
Their letter could lead to a church trial and perhaps an expulsion from the Church, although these actions have been rare or non-existent in the past.
Julia Belluz wrote an article for Vox titled:"It’s not just cruel to separate a breastfeeding baby from a mom. It’s medically dangerous." She discussed an undocumented immigrant from Honduras whose daughter was taken away by federal agents while she was breastfeeding in a detention center. Science journalist Emily Dreyfuss said:
"As a mother who breast fed an infant, I want to explain how excruciating it would be physically to have your child ripped from your breast." 9
Alison Stuebe, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of North CarolinaSchool of Medicine, said:
"Simply pulling the baby off will traumatize the mother’s nipple. ... "
"A woman’s breasts are continuously making milk and if that milk is not removed, her breasts become swollen and painful. She can develop mastitis, and mastitis can evolve into a breast abscess that may require surgical drainage."
The WHO explained that a highly refined and intricate system of hormones during breastfeeding is essential to keeping moms and babies healthy, and:
"It explains why the mother and baby should be kept together and why they should have skin-to-skin contact." 9
Ruth Graham, widow of evangelical leader Billy Graham and a major Christian writer, wrote an article for Slate.com. 11 It concerns the muted reaction by Focus on the Family -- a major evangelical Christian group -- to the separating of families at the border. On JUN-19, she wrote:
"... as outrage mounts against the Trump administration’s 'zero tolerance' approach to families seeking asylum at the Southern border, Focus on the Family has attempted to steer clear of taking a position. The organization’s Twitter account spent the weekend tweeting about Father’s Day, and the 'social issues' page of its website has posts on the Masterpiece Cakeshop court decision and 'talking to your children about transgender issues'. ..."
"... the Southern Baptist Convention and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have denounced the family-separation policy. Eight leaders of organizations including the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universitiessigned a letter on June 1 condemning the policy on the grounds that 'God has established the family as the fundamental building block of society.' That letter was produced by the same group, the Evangelical Immigration Table, that produced the 2012 statement [Jim] Daly, [president of Focus on the Family] signed. Though about 10,000 people have privately signed the June 1 statement after its release, according to the EIT, Daly was not among them. ..."
" 'On this issue, there is dissension in the ranks,' one ex-employee told me. 'There are a number of people who work there who are outraged.'
"On a press call on Monday hosted by the EIT, Focus’ former vice president of child advocacy, Kelly Rosati, condemned the policy in strong terms. 'We do not punish innocent children for the behaviors of their parents,' she said. 'I happen to think their parents are heroic for risking everything to try to get them what we all want for our kids. But even if you’re someone who doesn’t happen to think that way, you can still raise your voice on behalf of the innocent children'." 11
She speculates that there is a division within Republican ranks, with younger supporters being warmer to immigration generally compared to older Republicans who are more hard line on the topic. She writes:
"Having to maintain the loyalty of large donors [to Focus on the Family] has meant forgoing outreach to younger conservative Christians who are less loyal to the traditional Republican Party." 11
This might lead to "Focus" taking a pro-Republican/Pro-Trump stance on this matter.
2018-JUN-18: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints weighs in on the family separation immigration issue:
Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the LDS Church, issued a statements saying:
"“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long expressed its position that immigration reform should strengthen families and keep them together. The forced separation of children from their parents now occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border is harmful to families, especially to young children. We are deeply troubled by the aggressive and insensitive treatment of these families. While we recognize the right of all nations to enforce their laws and secure their borders, we encourage our national leaders to take swift action to correct this situation and seek for rational, compassionate solutions.” 12
2018-JUN-21: First Lady Melania Trump wears coat with a curious message:
She boarded a plane for a trip to McAllen TX where she was paying a surprise visit to the heart of the immigrant/refugee family separation crisis. She wore a green coat with the words scrawled on its back:
"I really don't care. Do U?."
Two photos of the coat can be viewed on the CNN Politics web site. 13
Melania's spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, said:
"Nothing to see here! . It's a jacket. There was no hidden message."
Grisham also tweeted:
"Today's visit ... in Texas impacted @FLOTUS greatly. If media would spend their time & energy on her actions & efforts to help kids -- rather than speculate & focus on her wardrobe -- we could get so much accomplished on behalf of children." 13
She also said:
"It's a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today's important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn't going to choose to focus on her wardrobe."
President Trump also tweeted about Melania's coat. But he had a different spin on it. His comment seems to be a stretch:
""'I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?' written on the back of Melania's jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!" 14
When she existed the plane in McAllen, she was not wearing the coat. It might be worthwhile noting that the high temperature there on JUN-21 was over 100 ºF.
2018-JUN-22: Time Magazine was criticized for its cover image:
Time Magazine's dramatic cover for their JUL-02 issue featured an image of a two-year-old crying girl. Her photograph had been taken while an official searched her mother in McAllen, TX earlier in June near the U.S./Mexican border. The mother and daughter were not separated; they were later detained together.
The image of the girl added to an image of President Trump looking downwards which was taken at another time and location. The text reads: "Welcome to America:".
Edward Felsenthal, Time's editor-in-chief, said:
"The June 12 photograph of the 2-year-old Honduran girl became the most visible symbol of the ongoing immigration debate in America for a reason: Under the policy enforced by the administration, prior to its reversal this week, those who crossed the border illegally were criminally prosecuted, which in turn resulted in the separation of children and parents. Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment." 15
CNN wrote an article that mentioned the cover. They later issued a correction, saying:
"The original version of this story misstated what happened to the girl in the photo after she taken from the scene. The girl was not carried away screaming by U.S. Border Patrol agents; her mother picked her up and the two were taken away together."
Nancy Gibbs, a former editor of Time Magazine, said that the image is clearly a photo illustration. She said:
"Obviously this child never met the president, it's not misleading at all in that sense. I think that the power of it is in the juxtaposition of the two figures, of the child who quickly came to represent all of the children that we're talking about, and the president who was making the decisions about their fate."
2018-JUN: U.S. Supreme Court rules
President Trump's Muslim Ban constitutional in the usual narrow 5 to 4 decision:
When Donald Trump was campaigning for the Presidency, one of his rallying cries was the complete and total prohibition of all Muslims entering the U.S. This was enthusiastically accepted by most of his voting base. After becoming President, he signed a series of three executive orders that banned immigration from a number of predominately Muslim countries. The third became effective on 2017-OCT-8. It permanently restricts travel for citizens from many countries. It cleaned up many of the statements of the previous two iterations which were clearly unconstitutional.
It indefinitely restricts travel from Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, North Korea, Chad, and some government officials from Venezuela. However, if security conditions improves in any of these countries, their country's restrictions could be lifted. President Trump said that:
"As president, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people."
Curiously, Saudi Arabia was not included in the list of countries. Most of the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center on 9-11 were from that country.
The ban was found to be unconstitutional by all of the lower courts before the lawsuit reached the Supreme Court.
Hearings were started by the High Court on 2017-OCT-10. On 2018-JUN, the High Court handed down its ruling. All five conservative Justices declared the Muslim ban to be constitutional. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: "The Proclamation is squarely within the scope of Presidential authority." All four liberal Justices declared the ban to be unconstitutional.
A new challenge to the ban is expected. It would probably be based on the ban having violating the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and/or the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. INA prohibits the exclusion of individuals from entering the US on the basis of their nationality.
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement saying:
"Six of President Trump’s targeted countries are Muslim. The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the U.S. — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn't obfuscate the real fact that the administration's order is still a Muslim ban."
President Trump said of the ruling:
"... a tremendous victory for the American People and the Constitution. This ruling is also a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country."
Hemant Mehta, the "Friendly Atheist" on Patheos, said:
"... A number of secular groups have spoken out against the decision, calling it a form of religious discrimination. To put it another way, a whole bunch of atheists are defending Muslims and religious freedom, because discrimination on the basis of religion should concern all of us.18
Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America said:
"By upholding President Trump’s travel ban, the Supreme Court has legitimized bigotry and threatened the rights of all Americans. This travel ban is nothing more than a thinly-veiled religious test and the fulfillment of President Trump’s repeated pledge to institute a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’ Any reasonable observer assessing the travel ban in light of President Trump’s 2016 campaign will see it for what it is — an assertion of Christian privilege, anti-Muslim bigotry, a rebuke of our First Amendment, and a grave threat to religious freedom.
Americans of all faiths and none must recognize the danger of the majority’s opinion. If the Trump Administration can disparage and single out Muslims, it can do the same to any of us. This reckless ruling undermines a founding principle of our country, that the United States government will show no favor or disfavor to any religion. The Court’s decision today is disappointing, but it is only one part of a larger fight against the flagrant religious favoritism of the Trump Administration. We will continue to condemn religious bigotry wherever it rears its ugly head, even at the highest levels of our government. We cannot allow demagogues to divide us by employing scare tactics and appealing to religious prejudices. It is up to us to elect lawmakers who will work to dismantle this religious test, strengthen our secular government, and uphold the ideals of inclusion and equality."18
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) tweeted:
"A disgraceful decision today by the Supreme Court." 18
Justice Kennedy retiring:
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced on 2018-JUN-27 that he will be retiring on JUL-31. He is generally referred to as a conservative Justice, and as a swing vote on the Court. He generally voted to preserve religious freedom and takes a liberal view on sexual matters. Many extremely important cases before the Supreme Court have been decided by a 5:4 majority because of Kennedy's vote, including the legalization of same-sex marriage. 19 The battle to appoint a successor will be vicious. More details.
During his campaign for the Presidency, Donald Trump promised to appoint "pro-life justices" who would vote to overturn the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that legallized early abortions.
2018-JUN-27: Alarming polls about political violence and a new civil war in the U.S.:
Rasmusen Reports announced the results of their recent poll on unrest in the U.S. They found some disturbing results:
31% of likely voters believe that the U.S. will experience a new civil war sometime during the next five years. 59% say a war is unlikely.
37% of Democrats, 32% of Republicans, and 26% of Independents expect a civil war.
The poll was conducted among 1,000 random adults on JUN-21 and 24. The margin of error is ± 3 percentage points. 20
2018-JUL-29: Portrait planned of President Trump at Colorado Capitol Hall:
A spot has been reserved for a portrait of President Trump on the wall of the Hall. It would be located beside a row of former presidents.
An unknown prankster placed a portrait of Russian President Putin in the empty space. Shortly thereafter, a tour guid noticed the portrait and removed it.
Colorado Citizens for Culture is attempting to raise $10,000 to have a portrait of President Trump made for the Hall. As of JUL-26, the sum raised was $0.00. 21
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today. Dates shown below are not necessarily the date when the article was first written; they are the latest update when this essay was written.
Elise Foley & Roque Planas, "2,000 Kids Separated From Parents Under Trump Border Crackdown," Huffington Post, 2019-JUN-15, at: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/