The backfiring zero tolerance policy of Trump

Mohammad Amjad Hossain | Published: June 29, 2018 20:38:35

US President Donald Trump

Basically, the United States of America has been a country of immigrants since the discovery of it by Christopher Columbus in October in 1492. The British, Irish and Dutch as well as slaves from Africa were settlers in the east coast of the US. President's father and mother were in fact immigrants, apart from his wife and first lady Melania. Since President Donald Trump came to power in January 2017, the country has been divided into two camps over the immigration row. Initially, President Trump banned entry of Muslims from seven Muslim-dominated countries to the US by an executive order on January 27, 2017. It was his first executive order on assumption of presidency to prevent any attack on the US by terrorists. The countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. But Saudi Arabia was excluded whereas most of so-called terrorists came from Saudi Arabia to attack the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon in Washington DC on September 11 in 2001. The executive order was endorsed by the Supreme Court of the US on June 26 by a ruling written by Chief Justice Roberts defending President's order which is squarely within the scope of the presidential authority under the immigration and nationality act. It seems the Supreme Court did not take cognizance of constitutional provision on religious liberty. This has been explicitly mentioned in amendment one of the constitution. The United States is built upon the promise of religious liberty. The American civil liberties union scathingly attacked the Supreme Court for upholding the President's travel ban. It may be relevant that in his executive order President did not especially mention that Muslims should be banned from travelling to the US from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen but these states are Muslim-dominated countries.

President Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently warned that all border violators, including those seeking asylum from Central American violence and drug gangs would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, with their children placed in separate custody, as a form of deterrence. More than 700 minors, including toddlers and babies, were separated from parents at the border from October 2017 to April 2018 and another 600 after the zero tolerance went into effect in May this year. There has been a hue and cry all over the US over separating children from families of illegal migrants. Having been faced with national outrage, President Trump signed an executive order on June 24 halting administration's policy of separating migrant families detained at the southern border with Mexico. This executive order was issued after ten Democrat Senators after visiting cage-like camps where children are detained urged Chairman Chuck Grassley, Republican, Senate Judiciary Committee, June 19 to hold an immediate oversight hearing on Trump administration's child separation policy at the US-Mexico border.

Condemnations of the separation policy have come from figures such as the typically apolitical former first lady Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. Added to this uproar was first lady Melania who visited camps on the US-Mexico border and President's daughter Ivanka Trump did not endorse the idea of separating children from parents. President Trump's supporter and evangelical leader Franklin Graham called the separation of families "terrible and disgraceful."

Meanwhile, 17 states in the US have filed lawsuits against the Federal Justice Department for separating children from families while the Mexican government is appealing to the Organisation of American States to condemn administration of President Donald Trump for inhuman treatment towards children. The US is a member of the organisation. The Mexican government also condemned the US administration's "cruel and inhuman policy of separating families from children". Secretary of State of Mexican government condemning it on June 19 is reported to have said possibly one per cent of migrants are from Mexico while the rest are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. These people are mostly use porous routes via Mexico to enter the US.

In spite of uproar in the US against the zero tolerance policy towards migrants, President Trump said on June 24 that "people who enter the United States illegally should be sent back immediately to where they came from without any judicial process, liking them to invaders who are trying to breach into the country."  As of now, one columnist in the US comparing the fenced enclosures used to detain illegal immigrants to Nazi concentration camps is "moronically hyperbolic" while another columnist is of the opinion that Trump "does not like policies that divert attention away from him, whose goal is always to create drama". Possibly this columnist in the USA Today is correct in his analysis of President Donald Trump. In fact, the President is creating drama one after another.

Mohammad Amjad Hossain is a retired diplomat from Bangladesh. He writes from Virginia.

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