Terrible things happened to immigrants under other presidents too

And no, that’s not a reason to ignore the horrible things happening now. If anything, it just gives us an even stronger moral imperative to address the awful way immigrants are treated by this country.

I don’t know how anyone can look at how the United States government is treating immigrants and asylum seekers right now—both adults and children—and not become overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness, rage, sadness, or some combination of the three.

I know that’s what I feel. The policy of systematically separating children from their parents to use as hostages to get draconian immigration reform and U.S. taxpayer money for the wall Mexico was supposed to pay for / as a deterrent against future immigration is a new, Trumpian addition to the American immigration system. It’s cruel, inhumane, and unconscionable. It must be ended—and no, I’m not just going to take the word of the guy who lied more than 3,000 times since taking office. It must be verified by third parties, and the children and parents that have already been subjected to this kafkaesque nightmare must be reunited.

But as horrible as this is—and it’s beyond horrible—the infrastructure and organizations that allowed the Trump administration to do what it’s doing didn’t develop overnight.

Bill Clinton started the practice of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers and signed a host of anti-immigrant legislation that effectively laid the groundwork for all the horrors immigrants have experienced under Bush, Obama, and now Trump.

Bush created ICE, an organization with little to no respect for civil liberties.

Obama allowed the organization to grow and fester and his CBP abused thousands of children. There are even documented cases of the Obama administration releasing immigrant children into the hands of human traffickers.

Oh, and under all three, the federal government continued to give resources and send immigrant children to shelters with a history of abuse, neglect, and worse.

So let’s not kid ourselves. Terrible things happened to immigrants under other presidents too.

The ugly truth is that U.S. government has been subjecting immigrants to heinous shit for much longer than Trump has been in power.

But what I don’t get is, why, the fuck, would that prevent us from updating and fixing our immigration system now that Trump is the one in charge and is somehow making things even worse? Why are people responding to reports of these crimes against humanity by pointing out that things were bad for immigrants in the past too?

Just as it’s been since the 1990s, there are children and adult immigrants in this country being abused by our system. The only difference now is that there are more people than ever before enduring more horrific abuses. No one wins here except sadists who enjoy seeing people suffer.

“But they’re undocumented!” cries a not insubstantial portion of the population.

To which I say, shame on you—they’re human beings. Human beings, treated like cargo—or worse. Most of them fleeing horrible situations, largely caused by our foreign policy. Via Time:

““People are leaving because they are suffering from high levels of violence from gangs and other organized criminal groups. These gangs want to recruit minors, they carry out extortion, kidnapping, sexually abusing girls,” says Francesca Fontanini, spokesperson for the UNHCR in the Americas. “This flow of families from Central America will not stop because if the root causes are still there these people will keep coming to the U.S. or to other countries.”

The violence in the region is driven by a mix of crime groups, from street gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha to drug cartels that move billions of dollars. The gunmen not only target rivals but regularly go after “civilians” sometimes just for being in the wrong place in the wrong time.”

It’s so bad, parents are deciding that using all their money to send their kids on a cross-continent journey in the hands of smugglers is the superior option to having them stay with them in their home countries.

But at the end of the day, ultimately, this it what it comes down to is this—no matter what your immigration status to the U.S. is, we shouldn’t be treating men, women, and children like this.

This isn’t fucking partisan. The only thing everyone seems to be able to agree on, is that the U.S. immigration system is cruel, ineffective, and broken. It was under Clinton, it was under Bush, it was under Obama, and it’s getting worse under Trump.

So let’s act like Americans and deal with this. There are real solutions to this problem if people look for them:

Instead of detaining asylum seekers and immigrants, lets enroll them in community programs that are significantly cheaper and far more humane.

Let’s appoint and provide funding for more immigration judges so we can ensure due process is served.

Let’s reform our childcare shelter system where immigrant children are placed (and while we’re at it, can we address the horrible situation that faces all of the children without parents in our country?).

And fine, put me down as someone who could stomach supporting a fucking wall if that’s what it will take to bring everyone to the table.

We have a moral imperative to address and fix this awful system that was launched by Bill Clinton, exacerbated by Bush and Obama, and is now going all “Germany 1933” on immigrants under Trump.

The broader immigration debate is worth having. But first, we have to dismantle and reform our immigration enforcement system. Anything less—no matter what party is in charge—is simply unacceptable and only darkens this stain on America’s status as the shining city on the hill.

There shouldn’t be any teams here. As Lauren Duca put it, just children abused by the U.S. government.

I have a lot of opinions. Follow me on Twitter: @nathantaft



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Nathan Taft

Nathan Taft

Firm believer in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Twitter: @nathantaft