“President Trump on Wednesday [June 20] walked back his policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border that had united most of America in opposition … In classic Trumpian fashion, the President took credit for reversing a policy he previously said he couldn’t reverse … But this was a problem of his own creation, and ‘zero tolerance’ is part of it.”
— Wall Street Journal, lead editorial, June 21
President Donald Trump has a gift for creating turmoil. His eccentric leadership style — fluid on details, thriving on criticism, unapologetic about mistakes and contradictions — often works to his advantage by enraging his opponents and entertaining the masses. He’s built a career by capitalizing on enemies who underestimate him.
But there’s a human cost to political theater that can be inexcusably ugly, especially when it’s paid by children. The administration’s most recent blunder — separating children from their parents caught illegally entering the country — was both stupid and destructive, and the storm of anger it sparked, warranted.
Some background is in order. Last month, acting on a new “zero tolerance” White House policy toward immigrants illegally entering the country, the Justice Department determined that all persons detained illegally crossing the border should be prosecuted as criminals. But many undocumented immigrants travel as families. They arrive with children, and a 1997 court decree (the Flores settlement) forbids the detention of minors. Thus, a different government agency (HHS) took charge of the children — totaling about 2,300 — while their parents were readied for deportation. This turned into a media disaster for the administration. On June 20, Trump issued an executive order reuniting children and their families during their processing.
The worst part of this story, however, is that it’s simply the latest chapter in an endless and often hypocritical struggle by both political parties over the details of immigration reform. The wrangling has been going on for many years. And the result is always the same: gridlock and mutual recrimination.
A year ago in this space, I wrote about the arrest and detention of the mother of Jaime L., a student at one of our Philadelphia-area Catholic schools. Jaime and his brother were born in the United States and have American citizenship; his parents were not, and thus were “illegals.” Jaime’s mother was stopped on her way to work one morning by immigration authorities, arrested, detained, and ultimately deported.
Yet despite hundreds of painful stories like Jaime’s; thousands of families split apart by the deportation of a mother or father or both; and immense publicity about the plight of “Dreamers” — i.e., the 1.8 million young adults brought to the United States illegally as children who have grown up here and know no other home — nothing substantially has changed about our immigration laws in the last 12 months, or in the last 24 or 36 or 48.
The Trump presidency has aggravated the frictions inherent to this issue, but there’s plenty of blame to go around. The responsibility for fixing our immigration problems has always resided with Congress, not the White House, and over the past decade both political parties have excelled at the kind of calculating, partisan obstructionism that makes a fix impossible.
We’re better than this as a nation. And if we really want to “make America great again,” with a moral character that proves it, then the people who make and apply our laws need to act accordingly.
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The Archbishop’s column on this topic is accurate and insightful. The topic, illegal immigration, or undocumented arrivals if you prefer, is multifaceted. I read where Japan and Italy are below replacement rates for population due to low birth rates for young couples. One day we may all face a global epidemic like Ebola or the “Plague” in the middle ages that modern medicine cannot contain. Unfortunately our elected legislators seem to be more intent on securing contributions for reelection campaigns than addressing legislative solutions to chronic and pressing problems. While some blame the “economic system”, I think that the greed and selfishness of some individuals is at least as big a problem as “financially led capitalism” that is part of globalization. And lets not overlook the dysfunctional societies in countries in Central America and other parts of the globe. Income inequality or the continued flow of wealth to those already super wealthy needs to be addressed through transaction taxes on monetary movements both domestically and globally. Otherwise people will continue to vote with their feet.
To the Gentleman who stated “How can you say these things about our President even if you don’t like him you have to admit he is accomplishing a lot while taking the daggers out of his back. Maybe you bishops would do yourself a big favor if you stayed out of politics and spent more time in front of the blessed Sacrament” –
This President has accomplished nothing productive, only distrust, division, and a total lack of moral behavior. He lies, takes extraordinary steps to stroke his ego, and in no way reflects the Light of Christ. Too many Americans, too many Catholic Americans, need to take off the blinders, stop being one-issue voters, and see things from a larger perspective. I am in California and am just familiarizing myself with Archbishop Chaput and am in no way an apologist for our Bishops. I know enough about my faith to know that by guiding us in morality issues in these dangerous times, our Bishops are not political, but are fulfilling Christ’s very mission. Spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament may do any Bishop good personally, but that will have minimal benefit for the Church at large. I can almost hear Christ asking our Bishops, what are you doing here with me? Get out there and lead, do something, teach my people.
We should not be condemning our Bishops while exalting Trump. We need to stop Trump and his hate and pray for our Bishops.
Another victory today for religious liberty thanks to the Trump victory in 2016. We were told repeatedly there was no good choice in the election but the majority of the church going Deplorables knew better.
Vincent Muller, thanks for the prayers I can always use them. Maybe my neck has gone stiff and maybe my heart hard or maybe I’m just sick of the Church leadership. Now I wait for another shoe to drop with another scandalous grand jury report. I guess you can tell me afterwards how most of the Bishops are right again.
Joe, I can assure you that NO Bishop is in favor of child abuse. If you think the Church is not taking extraordinary measures to prevent future occurrences of this problem, then you can add a “fried brain” to your other problems with a stiff neck and hardened heart.
Sorry, Joe! I really don’t think that your brain is “fried”! Maybe just a little confused!
Archbishop Chaput I completely disagree with you about this. You were one of my heroes and I am really disappointed in you. How can you say these things about our President even if you don’t like him you have to admit he is accomplishing a lot while taking the daggers out of his back . maybe you bishops would do yourself a big favor if you stayed out of politics and spent more time in front of the blessed Sacrament
Thank you, Abp. Chaput, for speaking out on this reprehensible action by Trump and his administration of caging and separating families- including babies and children – seeking political asylum. I agree whole-heartedly with the statement issued by the USCCB condemning these immoral actions. I have “zero tolerance” for Trump’s cruelty.