Commentary: Separating immigrant children from their parents. This is America … too!

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at

By Anthony L Hall

Occasionally in the course of human events, man’s inhumanity to man provokes commentaries that inflame passions more than shed light. This is one of those occasions.

Therefore, I hope what follows sheds light more than inflames passions.

Since early May, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the Southern U.S. border, according to the Department of Homeland Security, as part of a new immigration strategy by the Trump administration that has prompted widespread outcry. …

In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered prosecutors along the border to ‘adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy,’ for illegal border crossings. That included prosecuting parents traveling with their children as well as people who subsequently attempted to request asylum.

(NPR, June 19, 2018)

No doubt you’ve heard all the critics condemning this policy, which includes separating children so young, the Trump administration is detaining them at secret locations in “tender age shelters.” It is noteworthy that Trump’s own wife Melania is leading the chorus, which includes every former first lady, in denouncing this policy as cruel and inhumane, and eerily reminiscent of the way the Nazis treated the Jews.

They are right, of course. I mean, just imagine the despairing terror of parents fleeing their homes and braving an often long and treacherous journey to the US border, all to protect their children, only to have the US government throw them in prison and confiscate their children like contraband, leaving parents and children alike with no idea when or if they will ever see each other again. This is America?!

But, unlike fellow progressives, I readily concede that the tide of immigrants fleeing violence and privation south of the border is untenable.

But I also recognize that the categorical imperative to flee is existential, so much so that some parents are giving their life savings to smugglers (a.k.a. coyotes) to get their children to that border for a life-saving chance to … crossover.

I am also mindful that those fleeing Central and South America are no different from those who fled Cuba and Haiti over the years. In fact, the US government would be hard-pressed to explain why Hispanics from Cuba were welcomed for decades under its “wet foot, dry foot” policy, but Hispanics from Central and South America never were.

And don’t get me started on the racism inherent in never allowing blacks from Haiti or any other country to enter under this policy.

I have commented on the tangled web of immigration policies America has weaved in such commentaries as “Compassion Fatigue for Haitian Migrants,” July 31, 2009, and “Obama Ends Discriminatory ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Cuba Policy,” January 13, 2017.  But I digress …

Americans — of every political stripe — are venting moral outrage over the sound of children in US detention centers (a.k.a. internment camps) crying for their parents. Yet these same Americans seem blithely oblivious to the fact that these wailing cries pale in comparison to the sound of children left behind in those strife-ridden countries crying for food — when they’re not crying for a dead parent, sibling, or relative.

Meanwhile, President Trump is a lying, blame-shifting ogre in so many respects, it’s easy to overlook that President Obama was not exactly blameless. Granted, he never ordered children to be ripped from the arms of their mothers. But, in targeting illegal immigrants with criminal records, he deported so many fathers (which tore many families apart) that immigrant-rights activists ended up denouncing him as the “deporter in chief.”

I hasten to clarify that Trump banning Muslims and calling Caribbean and African countries “shitholes” are just two of the many notorious ways he is uniquely worthy of condemnation in this context.

That said, the only way to truly stem this tide is to marshal American resources (political, financial, and even military) to change conditions on the ground that are causing people to flee for their lives.

Administration officials insist that this separation policy is only a stop-gap measure until America can build Trump’s big, beautiful wall as the real deterrent. Further, that this deterrent is necessary because, the way immigrants are rushing to the southern border, you’d think their countries were like buildings on fire.

Unfortunately, they are so blinded by their own anti-immigrant bias, they can’t see that the best way to deal with a neighbor’s house on fire is not to build a wall around your house to keep that fleeing neighbor out; rather it’s to help that neighbor put out the fire, lest it engulfs the entire neighborhood.

(I argued the same for European countries dealing with the sequent toil of Arab (Syrian) and African migrants in such commentaries as “European Migration Crisis: Sowing Seeds of Unintended but All Too Foreseeable Consequences,” September 7, 2015. And I crystallized the similar migration challenges the US and EU face in “On Second Thought, Keep Your…Huddled Masses Yearning to Be Free,” July 7, 2014.)

In any event, it would be refreshing to have a US government offering direct assistance to help regional governments combat indigenous violence and provide basic services for their people, instead of trying to overthrow them. As part of this assistance, it could help those governments build, protect, and sustain safe havens within their respective borders, as well as launch public information programs to discourage people from thinking the reason America is a “Shining City on a Hill” is that its streets are paved with gold (you know, all that glitters is not…).

That would clearly be a more beneficial and humane use of taxpayer dollars than this moondoggle:

President Trump officially directed the Pentagon to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military in space on Monday. Speaking at a National Space Council meeting at the White House, Mr. Trump called for a ‘space force’ to ensure American dominance on the high frontier.

(CBS News, June 18 2018)

Ultimately, though, the only way to truly fix America’s inherently flawed immigration system is to kick Trump and his enablers in the “cult-like” Republican Party out of office. Because only Democrats seem committed to comprehensive immigration reform.

This would include not only a guest-worker program but also incentives for illegal immigrants now living in the shadows to assimilate, assimilate, assimilate! More to the point, such reform would practically end any need to cross the border illegally.

Incidentally, only the congenitally ass-backward Trump would think that withholding aid from these poor countries — as he is threatening to do — would stop what he says are illegal immigrants “infest[ing] our country.”

As indicated above, I have written too many commentaries on America’s perennial immigration crisis to count, including “US Declares ‘Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy … Yeah, Right!” October 20, 2005, “New Immigration Laws Promise Comfort to Fools in Washington and Paris,” December 2, 2005, “Bush’s Presidential Address on Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Hate the Messenger; Don’t Hate the Message,” May 16, 2006, and “DACA: Ain’t No Wall High Enough to Keep ‘Them’ from Getting to US,” September 16, 2017.

But I can think of no better way to end this one than to echo what President Obama famously said: Don’t get mad, vote! Or, to paraphrase what President Bush (George W.) famously tried to say: Elect Trump once, shame on him. Elect Trump twice, shame on you!

Related commentaries:
Wet foot, dry foot
Compassion fatigue for Haitian
Shithole countries
Original “zero-tolerance” immigration policy
New immigration laws offer comfort to fools
Bush comprehensive immigration reform
DACA ain’t no wall high enough
Banning Muslims
Europe’s migration crisis
On second thought, keep huddled masses

* This commentary was originally published at The iPINIONS Journal on Tuesday, June 19, at 10:21 p.m.


Trump ends separations but continues internments

June 20 (4:45 p.m.)

By Trump’s own admission, it was not common humanity but viral images that finally forced him to do this:

President Trump caved to enormous political pressure on Wednesday and signed an executive order that ends the separation of families by indefinitely detaining parents and children together at the border.

‘I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” [Trump said].

(The New York Times, June 20, 2018)

I cannot overstate that it was the “sight” not any “feeling” that moved him. After all, if he had any true feeling, he would have felt so chastened (for having ordered families be separated in first place) that he would have signed this executive order with no media in sight.

Instead, like an arsonist soliciting credit for putting out the fire he ignited, Trump summoned the media to cover his signing. Then again, this is the same president who spent months threatening to ignite a nuclear war with North Korea, and then started lobbying for a Nobel Peace prize just because he stopped doing so. #MunchausenByTrumpism!

Meanwhile, far from putting out his latest fire, the executive order this political arsonist just signed merely provides for children to be locked up along with their parents, indefinitely. Which, to be fair, I suppose is rather like taking them from the fire and putting them into the frying pan, no?

Not to mention that this PR stunt does nothing to reunite thousands of children — already separated and interned in shelters all over the country — with their parents.

NOTE: I refuse to dignify with any comment the weak, feckless, and pathetic way Trump and his rag-tag band of propagandists tried to blame Democrats — not only for implementing this separation policy but also for refusing to end it, as he has just done.



  1. Perhaps other than asking the American taxpayer to pony up more money to help Central American corrupt governments do nothing but pilfer even more, what does Mr Hall offer for a solution? I won’t even debate his obvious hatred for President Trump because that is never going to change regardless of the facts. Should we do as some have suggested spend the 25 billion dollars it will take to build the wall and just give it to our Southern neighbors hoping they will correct their ways? Anybody with a brain will (not implying that Anthony doesn’t have a brain or course he just doesn’t know how to engage it) understand that in 5 years we will be revisiting the same problem. This is called kicking the can down the road and President Trump is the first American President to tackle this problem in spite of the negative press he will receive from the naysayers who don’t believe he can do anything right. Have you checked out the American Economy lately? Every area has improved including the unemployment rate for Blacks and Hispanics. President Trump’s supporters have not hesitated in the their support and will undoubtedly re-elect him for 4 more years of growth and security. While you are at it check out his foreign policies. Win – win -win.

  2. Context is everything. America has one of the most liberal refugee programmes in the world with a fair and impartial hearing of the claims of those who enter the country legally or otherwise.

    Most countries, including those in the Caribbean, simply force legal and illegal border crossers back home without any hearing or right to appeal.

    America has been a magnet for economic migrants since its first European settlement, all the more so now as income, life-style, and social disparities between the USA (and other wealthy Western societies) and the Third World has increased in the past few decades.

    No one should blame people for wanting to share in the American dream. But no one should curse America for restricting the entry of what are almost exclusively economic migrants on any grounds this sovereign country chooses.

  3. “…a fair and impartial hearing of the claims of those who enter the country legally or otherwise.” You have got to be kidding.

    Children 5 or younger are forced to defend themselves in immigration court, where they face the same types of immigration charges as adults, ranging from entering the country illegally to overstaying their visas.

    “Three- and 4-year-olds do not yet have logical reasoning abilities. It’s preposterous, frankly, to think they could be taught enough about immigration law to be able to represent themselves in court.” … Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University.

    Key milestones for 3- and 4-year-olds include cooperating with other children, saying simple sentences and building towers of blocks.

    Is this fair and impartial when the law uniformly presumes in every other area that younger children lack the mental capacity to make consequential decisions?

    • These children were compelled to come to America by parents who exploited them as shields, if not cannon fodder, to get preferential treatment from — i.e., scam — the USA immigration system.

      American law says that children cannot be incarcerated in an adult penal facility, the holding area for most of the children you are talking about.

      American children are seized from their parents all the time in “the land of the free” as when: the parents deemed physically or mentally incapable of looking after them; physical or other abuse at home; grossly incompetent parenting; neglect, abandonment, incarcertion, death, and mental or drug-related incapacity of their parents.

      Tens of thousands of white children under the age of five are in custodial care sequestered from their parents for these or related reasons.

      Why should the children of illegal, economic, alien, queue-jumping refugees be treated any differently from the children of ordinary law-abiding Americans?

    • “Three- and 4-year-olds do not yet have logical reasoning abilities. It’s preposterous, frankly, to think they could be taught enough about immigration law to be able to represent themselves in court.” … Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University.

      Assuming your reasoning makes sense (which it doesn’t) why do you presume these children had the ability to reason as to why they wanted to come to America in the first place. I agree they are being used as pawns but that doesn’t mean the U.S. has to go along with this demonic reasoning. Your entire premise is ludicrous and without merit. I assure you these children are not forced to “represent themselves in court.”

      This entire issue is based on a theory or understanding that everyone has a right to storm our border and force us to give them a hearing on whether or not they have the right to remain. Processing all these people uses up vast resources and should never be allowed. They should simply be turned back into Mexico who by the same reasoning have the first opportunity to offer them amnesty. If they are truly being persecuted by their government they should be content to just move to Mexico. The move to America is strictly economic and we all know that.


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