What was that all about?
After months of defending his policy that separated children and parents who illegally enter the U.S., after searing images of crying children being held in chain-link cages were met with howls of worldwide disapproval, President Trump declared, "we want to keep families together. It's very important." Then he signed an executive order that ended the separation practice.
While no more migrant families will be torn apart, there's no indication just how or even if the more than 2,300 children already held (some sent as far away as New York, Illinois and Michigan) will be reunited with their parents, who now face deportation.
Here's my dime-store opinion on what happened here: President Trump is a carrot-and-stick kind of guy. If he doesn't get what he wants, the stick comes out first. In this case, he was openly frustrated by not being able to get his $25 billion border wall built and control the ever-increasing flow of illegal immigration along our southern border. His bully-businessman personality came to the fore when he decided to institute a super strict "zero-tolerance" policy that detained every person coming across our border.
Beginning a couple of months ago, anyone trying to enter the U.S. was held and closely scrutinized. If they were found to have entered the country illegally, they were arrested and put in lockup. Then came the dilemma: What to do with their children?
I really wonder if the president thought this through. He must have realized some migrants would come with kids. Surely someone in the White House warned him that when immigrants who come to the country illegally are arrested, they automatically go into a federal prison, and that a 2008 law says children cannot be kept in such a facility.
Did President Trump just not care what happened to those kids, or did his advisors sell him a bill of goods about their fate? If the president were fully informed, are we to deduce that while he was celebrating Father's Day on the golf course, he was OK knowing that thousands of migrant kids were wailing for the parents they feared they would never see again and housed in a place where caretakers were instructed not to touch, hug or otherwise comfort them? And what did the president think when mental health experts warned that such treatment of children could result in toxic brain stress that weakens brain architecture and can cause irreparable damage?
I feel ashamed about what has happened to those children through absolutely no fault of their own.
But some perspective, please. This current embarrassing situation has been a long time in the making. Members of Congress and past presidents — both Democrat and Republican — are all to blame for the horrible mess that is our nation's immigration policy. It boils down to a fundamental failure of leadership over several decades.
Now it has fallen to Trump to try to counter the shocking spike in illegal immigration along the southern border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection stats from October 2017 to May 2018 show a massive 329 percent increase in the number of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. and an enormous 435 percent jump in the number of so-called "Family Units."
Trump is right when he insists it is Congress that makes the laws. It is clear our national security depends on vigilance at our borders. New tough legislation is desperately needed.
And, let's face it, we citizens have contributed to the problem by not insisting more forcefully that something be done to better control and keep track of immigrants coming into our country illegally. We may have been blinded by the altruistic ideals inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," or by the philanthropic idea of open borders. Whatever the reason for the mass blindness, it has led us to this moment.
Sadly, we hear next to nothing about trying to tackle the two-fold root cause of the illegal immigration problem. First, citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico are fleeing ruthless, murderous drug gangs that often conduct business right under the noses of bribery-blind law enforcement officials. Every year, 2.6 billion of our tax dollars goes to aid programs that are supposed to help restore peace and prosperity in Central America. Yet the violence there seems never-ending. Where has all that money gone?
Second, drug trafficking is nurtured, in large part, by addicted Americans and their insatiable appetite for illegal drugs. Until we figure out a way to diminish demand or make the drugs they crave legal (thereby eliminating the profit motive for gangs), the exodus toward America will continue.
In his often obnoxious and ham-fisted way, President Trump is trying to get a handle on the immigration problem that so many before him allowed to fester. We can do better than we have done, but that would require cooperation and courage in Washington. Dare we hope?
To find out more about Diane Dimond, visit her website at www.dianedimond.com. Her latest book, "Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box," is available on Amazon.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.