The Trump administration, having been unable to get Congress to fund its border wall, has adopted vengeful meanness as its next-best substitute. Speaking at an Arizona law enforcement conferencelast Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions erased any doubt about the motives behind his excessive new crackdown on parents crossing the border with their children.
He pledged in no uncertain terms to prosecute anyone who crosses without proper documentation, including asylum seekers who are supposed to be protected under America's international treaty obligations. Sessions warned that children will be yanked from their parents' arms if they're caught.
Gone is any pretense that some children need to be separated for their own protection as potential victims of human traffickers. Sessions threw that notion out the window in his speech. He made clear he wants to terrorize immigrant parents by threatening to confiscate their children.
His and President Donald Trump's harsh new policies are so overboard they received pushback last week from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who publicly distanced himself from some of Trump's harsher anti-immigrant positions.
Sessions stated in his speech that the southern border was facing a "massive influx of illegal aliens. ... We are not going to let this country be invaded. We will not be stampeded. We will not capitulate to lawlessness."
He warned: "If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. ... If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border." In other words, the policy of child separation is being used solely as a punitive measure.
The administration already has separated parents from children more than 700 times, including one case involving an 18-month-old child, according to a New York Times report last month. More than 100 seized children were under age 4.
Is this really serving any useful purpose? U.S. immigration authorities absolutely should be working night and day to keep dangerous criminals from crossing the border. But neither toddlers nor their parents even remotely fit that bill.
This policy is simply cruel, motivated solely by mean-spirited politics, not security. If Sessions was so serious about monitoring undocumented children, then how is it that federal authorities lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children who had been transferred to the custody of adult sponsors last year? If they can't even manage the existing caseloads of migrant children, how does Sessions propose to handle more?
American streets are made no safer by this new policy. Murderers, rapists and drug traffickers might even have better chances of slipping through the net while immigration officers are devoting their energies to this fruitless, excessively punitive effort.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST LOUIS POST DISPATCH