UPDATE, June 21, 1:36 p.m.: The Washington Post reported Thursday that a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice maintains that the agency will continue to prosecute migrant parents who come to the country without documentation.“There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border,” the spokesperson said.
After weeks of growing outrage over the separation of children from their parents coming to the United States seeking asylum and to immigrate, President Trump today signed an executive order “ending” family separation at the border. As many experts have noted, however, the order does not change Trump’s mass deportation and “zero-tolerance” policy, though it does create a range of other problems.
In a statement, United We Dream, an immigration rights advocacy group, said Trump’s order “does not change his mass deportation and “zero tolerance” policy, which wrongly labels people fleeing violence and poverty as criminals, or their mass deportation agenda, which has unleashed deportation agents to target our communities everywhere.“
Natalia Cornelio, director of criminal justice reform at the Texas Civil Rights Project, told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt today that families and children will still be incarcerated and also separated. Because the zero-tolerance policy is resulting in the criminalization even of those seeking asylum, families will be incarcerated together, placing children in prison, she said. And “so long as parents are prosecuted criminally, children will still be separated from their parents for a few days, and they will have to remain under the custody of [Immigration and Customs Enforcement].”
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Parents are taken to court “where they are chained up [with] cuffs around ankles as they are prosecuted for coming into this country,” said Cornelio, while the children are left with agents, resulting in the same conditions of traumatic separation. Moreover, family detention will now take place in federal prison or in military detention camps.
Writing at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall noted that “the actual aim seems to be to pick a fight with the courts and allow separations to continue while blaming judges …. The problem is that [the executive order] violates a 1997 consent decree saying that you can’t detain/imprison children for more than 20 days (technically what’s currently happening isn’t detention). It straight up violates that order. So what will almost inevitably happen is that a court will step in, say you can’t do that and then Trump will announce that the judge is forcing him to keep separating families.”
Cristina Jimenez, executive director and co-founder of United We Dream, said in a statement, “The world has now seen the brutality of the racist deportation force and a Trump order to lock up families in detention camps doesn’t change that.”
“The ICE and CBP deportation force is a dangerous and racist cancer on the liberties of all people. They operate detention camps all over the country and have outposts in nearly every city. They exist for the purpose of enforcing the racist doctrine of mass deportation,” she said. “Members of Congress must immediately stop voting to give billions of dollars to the deportation force. There are no more excuses. Immigrant youth and our families and friends are determined to resist the deportation force and call on all people of principle to rise up and stop them.”
This is another Trump stunt with devastating consequences for real people. The order does not end Trump’s zero-tolerance policy. It would not end the detentions of children or their parents and does not secure the rights of asylum seekers or other immigrants. It does not resolve the crisis of the 2,300 children who have already been separated from their families. It does not treat immigrant families or individuals with dignity.
In short, it does little to address the massive crisis created by the administration itself, except perhaps as another effort at gaslighting.