The White House is in a state of turmoil after photos of school-aged immigrant children held behind fences created a major buzz on social media outlets.
While trump and his administration have attempted to push back and shift the blame by claiming that some of the images date back to the Obama era, the reality is that immigration enforcement under the Trump administration has increased the chances of families being separated at the U.S border. This has been primarily attributed to a new zero tolerance policy that prosecutes anyone suspected of illegally crossing the border, including those who are seeking asylum.
The change in immigration policy keeps in line with the “shock and awe” tactics favored by White House policy aide Stephen Miller, who headed last year’s travel ban, which has since been blocked by courts after disrupting the nation’s airports.
Tensions between the White House and administration officials are starting to boil over how far the administration can push immigration policy. 16 current and former administration officials, immigration experts, and close White House advisers have been talking about a rough political quandary that the President must address: how to balance the promises he made to his base that favors a hardline approach to border security, with the need become more appealing to moderate, independent, and suburban voters who might be outraged by the images of immigrant parents who are being separated from their kids on a daily basis.
According to one former campaign official, “From the president’s standpoint, it is a double standard. He gets hit hard even though he feels he is just doing what the previous administration had done. The media is so quick to validate a false narrative. You can’t blame Trump because past administrations never dealt with illegal immigration.”
However, some current and former administration officials view the crackdown on the border as just another example of the President enacting a policy aggressively without the necessary resources or logistics to deal with the bureaucratic chaos that results from trying to deter immigrants from crossing the border.
One DHS official said, “My sense is that they see what happened with the Muslim travel ban as a pretty good success story. Why try to do the first draft correctly if you get so many bites at the apple?”
Top officials from ICE, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Department of Justice have taken a critical stance on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who they feel isn’t being creative or tough enough in using executive authority to enact the President’s agenda on immigration.
However, those who support Nielsen say that such an aggressive approach tends to ignore the boundaries of the law and previous decisions made by the courts. Even before the most recent policy change, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action complaint in San Diego on behalf of a Congolese mother who was separated from her 7-year-old daughter for more than four months, as well as other immigrants who are in similar situations.
Government officials have also recently acknowledged that the Health and Human Services Department is nearly at full capacity with shelter beds for unaccompanied minors, while immigrant rights advocates have raised questions about whether the agencies are adequately prepared with enough staff and resources to care for immigrant children, including infants and toddlers. In fact, these shelters are traditionally equipped to handle teenagers, not children who need cribs, formula, and help with getting dressed or going to the bathroom. The length of time young children are being kept away from their parents, as well as how difficult it is to reunite families kept in different parts of the country, has advocate groups worried.
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