Trump Using Children As Bargaining Chips In Immigration Battle

Children are not political bargaining chips, but that's exactly what this President plans to turn them into.

UPDATE (James Joyner, June 23): The above photo, which went viral, is actually not an example of this policy. I’m leaving it up because erasing mistakes isn’t the ethos of the blogosphere. 

As I noted yesterday, the Trump Administration has had in place since May a policy that has resulted in some 2,000 children being separated from their parents at the border and kept in the isolation from their families. While this policy has come under increasing scrutiny from the media and increasing criticism from Democrats and religious leaders, the Trump Administration and its Republican supporters remain adamant in the enforcing the policy, which they falsely claim Democrats are responsible for. Now, The Washington Post is reporting that the President believes that he can use the fate of these children as political leverage:

President Trump has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate — separating immigrant parents from their young children at the southern border, according to White House officials.

On Friday, Trump suggested he would not change the policy unless Democrats agreed to his other immigration demands, which include funding a border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry. He also is intent on pushing members of his party to vote for a compromise measure that would achieve those long-standing priorities.

Trump’s public acknowledgment that he was willing to let the policy continue as he pursued his political goals came as the president once again blamed Democrats for a policy enacted and touted by his own administration.

“The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda,” he tweeted. After listing his demands in any immigration bill, he added, “Go for it! WIN!”

The attempt to gain advantage from a practice the American Academy of Pediatrics describes as causing children “irreparable harm” sets up a high-stakes gambit for Trump, whose political career has long benefited from harsh rhetoric on immigration.

Democrats have latched onto the issue and vowed to fight in the court of public opinion, with leaders planning trips to the border to highlight the stories of separated families, already the focus of news media attention. Democratic candidates running for vulnerable Republican seats also have begun to make the harsh treatment of children a centerpiece of their campaigns.

(…)

Besides increasing the odds of a broader immigration bill, senior Trump strategists believe that the child separation policy will deter the flow of migrant families across the border. Nearly 2,000 immigrant children were separated from parents during six weeks in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The figure is the only one released by the goverment.

“The president has told folks that in lieu of the laws being fixed, he wants to use the enforcement mechanisms that we have,” a White House official said. “The thinking in the building is to force people to the table.”

Trump reinforced that notion Friday morning at the White House when he suggested Democrats alone had the power to alter the policy.

“I hate the children being taken away,” Trump said.

The president used a similar strategy last year as he sought to gain approval for his immigration demands by using the lure of protection for young immigrants brought to the United States as children. That effort, which ran counter to Trump’s earlier promise to sign a bipartisan bill protecting the young immigrants, foundered in Congress.

Democratic and Republican strategists believe the odds of passing a broad new immigration law — this one ending the family separation policy — remain slim.

Not surprisingly, this apparent attempt to use these children as leverage in negotiations over a broader immigration bill has been condemned by Democrats in the House and Senate. California Congressman Adam Schiff, for example, on Meet The Press yesterday accused the Administration of using ”grief, the tears, the pain” these children as “mortar” to build the President’s much-vaunted border wall. “It’s an effort to extort a bill to their liking in the Congress. It’s, I think, deeply unethical,” Schiff added. Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, meanwhile, said on Fox News Sunday that “using children, young children, as political foils is abhorrent.” The chief spokesperson for the White House on Sunday’s news programs was Kellyanne Conway, who repeated the false claim that the current policy was the responsibility of Democrats and bizarrely blamed Democrats for not acting regarding this matter during immigration reform negotiations that occurred four months before the Trump Administration announced the new “zero tolerance” policy.

On some level, of course, it should not be a surprise that this President is using these children and the moral atrocity that his Administration is committing with every succeeding day that the “zero tolerance” policy” is in effect as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Congress. For the better part of a year now, he has been doing the same thing with regard to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Dating from back in January, he has demanded that any deal that would provide protection to the DACA beneficiaries must include at least some funding for his border wall, the one that Mexico was supposed to pay for. When Senate Democrats said they would agree to a deal like that, Trump turned around and walked away from the deal, leading Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to say that negotiating with Trump was like negotiating with Jello. Later, he upped the ante by saying that he would only agree to a DACA deal that included not just border wall funding but also provisions that would end the visa lottery and so-called “chain migration,” the system that allows people who have attained legal status to sponsor family members for legal immigration on a somewhat expedited basis.

The DACA issue, of course, was a crisis of his own creation since he was the one who had decided to end the program last September. Now he’s doing the same thing with the children on the border, which is also a crisis of his own creation, and he’s cynically using them as a bargaining chip to get what he wants out of Congress. To be sure, there is an argument in favor of at least some compromise if it results in getting these children back with their parents and these families seeking asylum being treated in accordance with the law. At this point, though, there’s no reason to believe that giving in to this President is going to be worth the price because there’s no reason to believe he’ll live up to his end of the bargain. Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong, but my guess is that Trump is going to find a way change the terms of any agreement at the last minute, or that he’ll use the fate of these children to get even more than he’s asking for now. It is at once cynical, cruel, and inhumane and the fact that his supporters are apparently fine with it is a rather apt demonstration of the extent to which this President has degraded the moral discourse in this country over the course of the seventeen months he has been President.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. KM says:

    We’re now officially a nation of kidnappers and we’re demanding ransom from a completely separate group of people for a stupid wall that’s never going to be built.

    I’ve pointed out on Steven’s post we’re creating a new generation of potential terrorists and terrorist sympathizers with our pointless cruelty. We’re going to have to explain to our children and their children why we thought it was a good idea to do this. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot for no damn reason other then Trump and Co are hateful, immoral bastards. There’s no damn way this doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass.

    If America doesn’t stand up and fight back against this, we deserve whatever karma we get out of it.

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  2. teve tory says:

    Republicans Are Mean As Hell

    Donald Trump has made plain what’s long lurked barely below the surface of American politics: it’s not so much a contest between liberal and conservative as it is between kindness and meanness. God knows, not every liberal is kind and not every conservative is mean. But that’s sure the way to bet these days.

    Republicans are mean and getting meaner. It’s now the foundation of their party, and Trump has decided to make it a selling point, not something to be ashamed of. They’re just plain mean and they’re proud of it.

    -KEVIN DRUM
    JUN. 18, 2018 9:18 AM

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  3. Kathy says:

    How long until the Cheeto orders “illegal” immigrants shot on sight? That’s where this policy is headed, not to mention it’s his own personal preference.

  4. reidr says:

    Trump is at this moment having a press conference where he’s again squarely blaming the Democrats for the problem with children. I had to turn it off.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Trump is a blackhole of morality. It goes in never to be seen again. Whatever morals the various members of the trump admin thought they had, they are long gone never to be seen again. Sold for power only.

  6. Not the IT Dept. says:

    “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.” – Tom

    “A republic – if you can keep it.” – Ben

    We’re laying up some major-bad cosmic karma, and other nations are getting fed up with our sh*t. My in-laws emailed me a link to a Canadian newspaper that had an op-piece on whether it would be a good time for Canada to explore getting nuclear weapons.

  7. Yank says:

    Later, he upped the ante by saying that he would only agree to a DACA deal that included not just border wall funding but also provisions that would end the visa lottery and so-called “chain migration,” the system that allows people who have attained legal status to sponsor family members for legal immigration on a somewhat expedited basis.

    This right here is the entire ballgame.

    The border wall, DACA, children etc. are all window dressing for what Trump, Miller, and the nativist wing of the party really want to do. They want to reduce legal immigration by nearly 50%, which is deeply unpopular. And I am not just talking about with bleeding heart liberals, I am talking about leaders in various sectors (tech, business, education etc.)

    They know this isn’t popular, which is why they are trying to sneak it in the backdoor and use DACA (and now these children) as cover.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    Trump is at this moment having a press conference where he’s again squarely blaming the Democrats for the problem with children.

    But of course…in addition to being a totally repugnant human being, he is also a coward who doesn’t have the balls to stand firmly behind his own despicable policies…I think of that Politico piece with all those senior baby boomers in Florida who voted for this idiot…if they don’t want to be painted as selfish, greedy a$$holes, perhaps they shouldn’t vote for trash like this…

  9. Kathy says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    My in-laws emailed me a link to a Canadian newspaper that had an op-piece on whether it would be a good time for Canada to explore getting nuclear weapons.

    If I were Canada, I’d be exploring how to obtain nuclear weapons, not whether to do so.

    In Europe things are more complicated, as both France and GB already have them, and as there is the European Union to take into account.

    In both cases there’d be the very knotty problem of proliferation. NPT aside, if countries with modern militaries like Canada and the EU nations need a nuclear deterrent against America, then how do they demand smaller, less powerful nations like Iran and North Korea not get such a deterrent of their own?

  10. teve tory says:

    Q-pol and Ipsos poll showing public support for shitty trump policy 32-35%.

  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    This is why it’s so important to elect people of character…no matter what your politics are…because character matters.
    The cruelty evident in this current manufactured crisis is a direct result of Dennison’s inability to feel sympathy and empathy. Moral short-comings like this (not to mention pathological lying) begin to radiate throughout an administrations (and the party’s) agenda. Soon every issue and policy debate is more about basic morality than anything else. This issue is no longer about immigration; this is now about basic human decency and who we are as a nation. That’s what happens when you elect someone like Dennison; inevitably politics is going to be not about high taxes or low taxes, or big government or small government…politics is now about corruption/honesty, decency/indecency, cruelty/kindness, empathy/mercilessness. Today’s Republican party is the the party of corruption, cruelty, indecency, and mercilessness.

  12. MBunge says:

    Whoever knew Rich Lowry of National Review was such a horribly immoral, boot-licking, Trump-worshiping sycophant?

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/05/illegal-immigration-enforcement-separating-kids-at-border/

    Why, it’s almost as if there’s an entire world of information and perspective out there that Doug Mataconis and Steven L. Taylor are deliberating ignoring. But that couldn’t be true.

    Mike

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  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:
    You are rolling around in moral squalor.

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  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    On Friday, Trump suggested he would not change the policy unless Democrats agreed to his other immigration demands, which include funding a border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry.

    I’m old enough to remember when Mexico was going to pay for the wall.

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  15. teve tory says:

    I’m old enough to remember when Mexico was going to pay for the wall.

    I wonder if any trumpers will ever realize their share of the cost of the pointless Wall exceeds the amount of tax break they got. Probly not. Math is for coastal elitist queers.

  16. de stijl says:

    I’m old enough to remember when Republicans did not wish out loud for the death, destruction, and abasement of their American neighbors.

  17. KM says:

    @MBunge:
    So if “children should not be making this journey that is fraught with peril”, where exactly do you idiots think they should go? The whole point of seeking asylum is it’s not safe where they were fleeing from and you schmucks think they should leave the kids behind unattended for months? What, you think there’s a live-in daycare down there or something?

    These are not illegals sneaking across the border in search of a job to send money back home to the family. These are people who are fleeing violence and terrible conditions and trying to actually do it right – they are going up to the border and asking for help under the law, only for people like you to accuse them of being heartless for not abandoning their children while kidnapping said kids. That’s why your own party’s turning on you to the point where group’s normally down with this think you’re monsters.

    It’s real hard to pretend you give a sh^t about families and children when you’re baby snatching to blackmail liberals. Even the SBC is judging you for your family destroying ways and they’re huge Trump fans. It wasn’t always like this but under Trump not only is it de rigueur, sycophants like you are betraying your morals and faith to defend him. We used to be proud to be the Shining City on the Hill and Trump’s pissing that light out, lamp by lamp.

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  18. An Interested Party says:

    Whoever knew Rich Lowry of National Review was such a horribly immoral, boot-licking, Trump-worshiping sycophant?

    Actually, he has become quite the Trump apologist of late…granted, he’s not yet the horribly immoral, boot-licking, Trump-worshiping sycophant that you are…

  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Indeed. When someone looks at a situation where children are being separated from their parents and essentially kept in cages, and has the temerity to ask “did they come here legally?”, my disagreement with that person is not a disagreement on policy.

    It’s a disagreement on morality (or their lack thereof).

    Drum expressed it well – these people are just mean. Cold hearted, vile, evil, and … mean …

  20. george says:

    @Kathy:

    If I were Canada, I’d be exploring how to obtain nuclear weapons, not whether to do so.

    Every western nation (including Canada) has the know-how to build nuclear weapons – the technology is 70 years old. Most already have nuclear power plants, which are technologically harder to build than the weapons for a number of reasons. Its never been a question of whether Canada or any of the others can make nuclear weapons, the answer has been: “yes” for decades. The question has always been is it worth it? So far most countries in the group (including Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany etc) have said no.

    As much as Trump is a nut case, its no more worth getting them now than it was during the cold war. If things really deteriorate, they’re easy enough to make for western powers, though if things deteriorate to the point where they’re needed then the world is toast anyway.

    On the main point, separating children from parents is close to the lowest you can go. However, over the last few decades we’ve gone lower: bombing children in wars for instance. Read up on the stats of children dying in various wars and police actions we’ve been involved in, especially the Vietnam War, the Iraq War. This separation, as horrible as it, is not close to the worst of it.

    But we can’t bring back children who died in Vietnam and the Iraq War. We can stop separating them.

  21. teve tory says:

    All 49 Dem senators have now cosponsored a bill to stop separating children from their families in asylum cases.

    I wonder how many republicans will cosponsor it.

  22. teve tory says:

    On the main point, separating children from parents is close to the lowest you can go. However, over the last few decades we’ve gone lower: bombing children in wars for instance. Read up on the stats of children dying in various wars and police actions we’ve been involved in, especially the Vietnam War, the Iraq War. This separation, as horrible as it, is not close to the worst of it.

    There was a story a few months ago about how the CIA (I think it was) had a terrorist target and they waited til he was away from his family and killed him with a drone, and Trump was angry that they didn’t kill him with his family.

    Stupid people with shitty values.

  23. teve tory says:
  24. KM says:

    @george:

    Read up on the stats of children dying in various wars and police actions we’ve been involved in, especially the Vietnam War, the Iraq War. This separation, as horrible as it, is not close to the worst of it.

    It’s easy to lie to oneself and say those were “accidents”. People forgive a great number of sins, deliberate or otherwise, if they can be excused as “accidental” or “unintentional”. The truth is innocents always have and will die in war. Humanity came to terms with that a long time ago and the added distance of long-rang weaponry has only made it worse. It will be written off as potentially avoidable tragedies but no one really thinks people are deliberately going to war to kill kids. Even wars that were specifically about genocide wanted to kill everyone, not just the kids of the group.

    Kidnapping, on the other hand, is very much a deliberate action. It’s targeted, it’s intentional and it’s malicious. It preys on the primal fear of losing someone important and strikes a chord in virtually everyone. That’s *why* Trump and Co are doing this – they’re trying to scare the hell out of those they wish to turn away. Holding children as political hostages to force compliance has a long and sordid history and it rarely ended well for the child in question.

  25. Kathy says:

    As much as Trump is a nut case, its no more worth getting them now than it was during the cold war. If things really deteriorate, they’re easy enough to make for western powers, though if things deteriorate to the point where they’re needed then the world is toast anyway.

    The hardest part of making a nuke is obtaining the plutonium or enriched uranium to detonate. Plutonium isn’t found in nature, so you make it in a breeder reactor. Uranium exists mostly in isotope U-238, and that won’t detonate. You want U-235, which makes a minuscule portion of the available uranium. To separate it, as the isotopes are chemically identical, you need to mix the uranium with fluorine (only the most reactive element known) to make uranium hexafluoride, which is highly corrosive, then spin it in centrifuges and separate them by mass. A single spin won’t do, either. it’s a long, difficult process.

    That’s enough for a fission bomb. for a fusion weapon, or hydrogen bomb, you need tritium, a hydrogen isotope with two neutrons. That, too, is made in reactors. It does exist in nature, but at such ridiculously low ratio as to make U-235 seem abundant; besides, it decays into Helium-3, which is not useful in a nuke.

    So it’s not that easy, even given the know-how. The fabrication techniques are not widely known, either. If Canada wanted a simple nuke by next year, it should have started making one last year. By which I mean a nuke that can at least be carried by a fighter jet.

    Additionally you need a delivery system. Fighter jets are relatively easy to shoot down. Ballistic missiles are not.

    Missiles, though, can be taken out before they are launched rather easily. So you would want a means to conceal your missiles. That’s hard to do for a fixed location, but rather easy, in comparison, with a ballistic missile submarine.

    It’s a big job. If Canada and/or Europe decide to develop nukes, they have a ways to go. Japan and Europe do have a head start in missiles, as they already can make rockets to launch satellites (it’s the same technology). Canada has a head start in that it holds large reserves of uranium.

  26. de stijl says:

    If I were Canada, I would be Sarah Polley. She is awesome and such a great career. She would have had a better career if Hollywood didn’t have such a weird concept of who is capable of fronting a movie. S’okay, she made her own way. Fuck ’em.

  27. wr says:

    @MBunge: “Whoever knew Rich Lowry of National Review was such a horribly immoral, boot-licking, Trump-worshiping sycophant?”

    Pretty much anyone who’s ever heard a word he spoke or read a word he wrote. Why do you ask?

  28. Hal_10000 says:

    @Kathy:

    I’d think that was hyperbole but Trump BFF Duterte is giving out free gun to people as long as they shoot drug dealers.

  29. Guarneri says:

    “Trump Using Children As Bargaining Chips In Immigration Battle”

    As are the Democrats, children’s parents, human traffickers…….

  30. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Guarneri:

    Sorry, only the Trump admin is putting kids into cages.

    #DeflectionFail

    You come back try again later, m’kay?

  31. Andrew says:

    Maybe Trump just likes having lawsuits filed against him?
    Anyone ever think of that?