Update: There’s been a lot of confusion about what’s going on with the missing children. I was wrong in saying that they were separated from their parents at the border — Jeff Session’s unconscionable policy is a new one, and will create many orphans, but it didn’t cause this situation. And some of the kids went to family. But as the Washington Post points out, ORR really did lose track of the kids, and it’s likely that some are in bad situations. And nothing about this update changes the barbarism being inflicted upon immigrants and Latin Americans by ICE, Jeff Sessions, and the conservative lawmakers highlighted below:
Even during an era in which the velocity of breaking atrocities and outrages has numbed the senses, the latest dispatches from the ongoing nightmare at the southern border stick out as particularly devastating tragedies. This past week, it became more clear than ever to the general public that there is a fully authorized, government-sanctioned Gestapo terrorizing Latin Americans in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida and other states where refugees and hopeful immigrants tend to arrive and live.
First, there is the story of the missing children. It emerged that the Office of Refugee Resettlement has lost track of nearly 1500 young immigrant children who it placed into some kind of foster care — and that’s just during a three month period in 2017. The number of small children left to fend for themselves in this strange and scary country is probably far higher.
It is a breathtaking admission, and the product of a purposely cruel policy put in place by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. ICE, the aforementioned Gestapo, has been separating children from their parents and then processing them as orphans, ripping vulnerable refugee families apart as soon as they arrive in the United States, a country once seen as a welcoming beacon of hope.
(Update: As noted, this new policy isn’t responsible for the fuck-up. It’ll only make it worse.)
Via Washington Post:
“The type of devastation that we’re talking about … where a separated mother doesn’t know where her child is for four days, that’s entirely common right now in this administration,” Laura St. John, the legal director of The Florence Project, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “Children and parents who are separated sometimes don’t have any way to communicate with each other for days, for weeks — I’ve seen months where a parent had no idea where their child was after the U.S. government took their child away.”
St. John noted her group also was seeing increasingly younger children being taken into custody by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, as opposed to the migrant teenagers who had previously crossed the border themselves.
“Just last week we saw a 53-week-old infant in court without a parent,” St. John told Hayes. “What we’re seeing now is that, because the government is separating the children from the parents, the government is actually rendering these children as unaccompanied minors and bringing them to the shelters.”
Sadly, this is a problem that has bipartisan roots. The Obama administration, faced with a skyrocketing number of refugees, relaxed the foster parent standards, thus placing some children into very dangerous situations. As much as Obama did for immigrant children — DACA should a prime achievement — his administration also failed in a number of ways.
So, where do we go from here? While the Trump Administration controls ICE and Homeland Security, Congress can and should have oversight of the executive branch. Unfortunately, the GOP has surrendered all pretense of checking the power of the Trump cabal, so we have to work to kick them out in November. Let’s focus on a few prime committees and candidates, starting with the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.
Rep. Ken Buck, the awful far-right vice chair of the committee, is in line to succeed the retiring Raul Labrador, who just so happened to lose his primary election for Idaho governor earlier this month. Buck represents Colorado’s fourth district, and he has an excellent opponent in Karen McCormick, who we’ve already endorsed here at Progressives Everywhere as part of our focus on ousting NRA-backed politicians. Yep, Buck is also an NRA puppet, which goes to show just how awful he is. McCormick is a compassionate veterinarian and community leader who has already called for an investigation into the missing children — something Buck will never do in any serious way.
Look at what Buck said about separating children from their parents:
I think it’s unfortunate when families are separated. But it’s also unfortunate when families make a decision to break the law [by coming here.] And there are consequences in this country. We are a country of rule – a country of laws. And we believe in the rule of law. And I think it’s just a sad reality that there is going to be some unfortunate separation of individuals when crimes are committed.
Steve King may be the most racist and noxious lawmaker in the House — or, at the very least, the most vocal about his malicious neanderthal beliefs. He’s long coasted to victory in Iowa’s rural fourth district, but he’s got some serious potential opponents this time around. The primary election is on June 5th, but there’s one challenger that really stands out.
J.D. Scholten has been out-raising King for the past several FEC cycles, even as he espouses a full-throated progressivism that we’ve long been told doesn’t play in rural midwestern districts. He was featured in The Intercept earlier this year slamming King’s immigration policy, and would represent as drastic a change as is possible in modern America.
Then there is Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Committee. He’s a border wall supporter, is in favor of sending the National Guard to police the crossing, and supports prosecuting parents — and thus stripping their kids away from them. Running against him is Mike Siegel, an assistant city attorney from Austin who offers an entirely new perspective on just about every single issue. His stance on immigration is no exception.
The other awful border story involves a local version of ICE, the Texas Department of Public Safety. Over the past few years, it has been turned into a militarized terror agency, haunting majority Latino towns and making life hell for everyone there. They police every corner of every street — both through on-the-ground officers and endless cameras — and make it so that people are literally afraid to drive to work. They can’t even go to Little League baseball games without being harassed.
The DPS buildup began as a way for then-Governor Rick Perry to look tough on the border ahead of a run for re-election. It’s now become a permanent police state.
“Hidalgo and Starr counties are now among the most profiled and surveilled communities in America, with residents forced to adjust to life under the persistent watch of aerostat surveillance balloons, observation towers, National Guard listening posts, drones, DPS surveillance cameras, DPS spy planes and a barrage of intrusive police stops.”
And this isn’t just impacting the people in those counties. It’s hurting all Texans. Again, from the Observer:
“Lawmakers slashed Medicaid funding by $2 billion and declined to fully fund the state’s child-welfare system, which has been in crisis for years. In the decade since the surge began, the state’s portion of funding for public education has dropped from 48 to 38 percent. But the Republican majority gave DPS another $800 million for border security.”
The obvious move is to take on the lawmakers enabling this horrible state of affairs. But it’s not so simple.
Rep. Phil King, who chairs the committee, has enabled bigotry and mass harassment for years (and is also an anti-choice, corporate ALEC and NRA stooge who doesn’t even want laws that require people to lock up their guns, even in the wake of the Santa Fe high school massacre). Once again, Rep. Phil King is running unopposed for re-election.
Also running unopposed for re-election is DeWayne Burns, a Republican on the committee who is equally as grating and noxious. We need to do better, and that starts by showing candidates that they will have support even in tough races.
Here’s where we start: Several Republicans do have challengers, however long their odds may seem based on their districts and fundraising disparities. A little money can go a long way in local races, especially in more rural markets, and even a somewhat tight race can push an extremist candidate towards more moderate positions.
GOP Rep. Justin Holland is being challenged by Democrat Laura Gunn in HD 33, while Republican Rep. Will Metcalf faces off against Democrat Mike Midler in HD 16. Midler has a particularly interesting resume; a Marine who served in Vietnam, he spent his career as a history teacher, with a stop at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and his campaign literature cites the progressive visions of our Founding Fathers to rebuke the “Make America Great Again” crowd. You can donate at his… rudimentary campaign site.
Meanwhile, ultra-conservative Matt Schaeffer, who chairs the Texas Freedom Caucus, and brags about immigrant apprehension at the top of his campaign website, is being challenged by an unlikely leader in East Texas, a rabbi named Neal Katz. While he’s running as an independent as a nod to the politics of the region, Katz is a popular and progressive voice there, with support frombusinesses, community groups and even some church leaders. He’s not on ActBlue, since he’s an independent, so you can donate at his site.
Oh, and remember the Texas stooge who blamed doors for school shootings? Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is also an avid fan of destroying the lives of Latin communities, so once again, we’ll be supporting his opponent, Mike Collier, as a rational and pragmatic alternative.