In case you missed it this past weekend, The New York Times Magazine published an in-depth look at the current Department of Homeland Security, which, under Trump, has transformed from an agency with a wide range of missions into one that focuses solely on border control and enforcement.
Reportedly, at a Cabinet meeting in early 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump that to solve the immigration crisis, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen just needed to “stop letting people into the country.” Trump has seized on this idea and refuses to move away from it, despite Nielsen attempting to explain that the United States could not legally turn away someone requesting asylum at the border.
From his Muslim ban in his first week of office to the extreme “zero-tolerance” policy that led to family separation and abysmal conditions at detention centers at the border, Trump has exhibited a laser focus on toughening up immigration policy in the U.S. As the article reports:
“Supporting Trump in all this are a group of immigration restrictionists — officials and advisers who have single-mindedly pursued a policy of not just cracking down on illegal border-crossing, in the manner of conventional immigration hawks, but also limiting all immigration to the best of their ability. Chief among them is Trump’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller.”
Miller has encouraged Trump’s most extreme tendencies, and the article outlines how his ideas most often won out in the White House. “Increased internal enforcement,” or the policy of directing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to arrest and deport all undocumented immigrants living anywhere in the United States, was Miller’s idea.
The article ends on a grim note: As moderates are getting frustrated and leaving DHS, the ideas of the most extreme immigration restrictionists, like Miller, are rising to the top. DHS is now almost fully staffed by extremists.
Earlier this month, Raul Pinto an attorney in the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project of the North Carolina Justice Center (parent organization to NC Policy Watch) authored an op-ed in which he encouraged North Carolinians not to see the workings of the federal Department of Homeland Security as separate from the conditions within North Carolina, where the legislature is attempting to pass anti-immigrant bills such as House Bills 370 and 135. As Pinto pointed out:
“This administration’s chosen tool to address immigration is fear, whether at the border or in our communities. The policy of separating families who come to the U.S. border seeking asylum is predicated on making people afraid that they will lose their children if they exercise their right to ask for asylum.
House Bills 370 and 135 were crafted to spark that same fear: if you drive without a license in order to go buy groceries and you are stopped by police, you may not see your family again; if you report that you have been a victim of a crime to your local police department, your family may be ripped apart.”
“In his statement of opposition to the proposed legislation, Gov. Cooper rightfully observed that North Carolina law already provides for the prosecution and conviction of individuals who commit a crime. He might have added that proposals like HB 370 and HB 135 are also undeniably intertwined with the Trump administration’s un-American and, ultimately, counter-productive fear campaign.
I don’t know what it will take for the separation of families caused by policies like those contained in these bills to outrage North Carolinians and move them to demand a shift in policy. Unless, however, we want another tragic viral photograph on our collective conscience, we can no longer afford to adopt a ‘see no evil’ approach.”