The Trump Administration’s white supremacist actions on immigration are bad, and getting worse. On Aug. 27, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was raiding FEMA of $271 million to pay for increased border enforcement, additional beds and temporary hearing facilities. Migrant girls who have been detained by border patrol officers have been placed in “appalling” conditions with virtually no access to sanitary pads and tampons, according to this Fatherly story. At the same time, the Trump Administration has recently rescinded permission for immigrant families who came to the U.S. to get life-saving medical care, and have ordered them to leave the country, according to NBC News, potentially condemning them to to an easily preventable death.
“This administration is now deporting kids with cancer,” Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) told NBC News.
Into this maelstrom of racism and cruelty, Representatives Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) and Katie Porter (D-Irvine), along with Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) toured three border facilities near the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this week. On Aug. 28, the three congressional representatives visited the San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter, Otay Mesa Detention Center (which has long faced criticism for allegedly neglecting detainees’ medical care) and Chula Vista Border Patrol Station (which was dangerously overcrowded as recently as May).
“I was grateful for the opportunity to tour local border facilities, sit down with asylum seekers, and meet with immigration officials and agents,” said Levin in an Aug. 28 statement. “While conditions at these facilities may be better than others along the border, overcrowding has largely been reduced as a result of the Trump Administration’s harmful policy of sending asylum-seekers back to dangerous cities in Mexico, and some migrants appear to not be receiving adequate legal counsel.”
In his statement, Levin pleaded for bipartisanship. His proposals for “comprehensive and humane” immigration reform are very bipartisan, and include “protections for Dreamers, a path to citizenship, and increased funding for smart border security technology.”
“Most of all, we must always treat immigrants with respect and decency,” Levin added. “My mother’s parents immigrated from Mexico because they wanted to achieve the American dream and create a better life for their children and grandchildren. Our country was founded on that promise, and we must keep it.”
On Aug. 30, Rep. Porter posted a long thread on her visit on her Twitter account:
Many of you asked for more detail about my trip to the border this week, so I wanted to take time to share my thoughts. (long but important thread)
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) August 30, 2019
“What is happening in CA is different than in TX or AZ,” Porter tweeted. “These differences reflect geography, history, culture, resources, and other factors.”
Porter said ICE and CBP officials allowed her to speak directly to detainees. She also drew a sharp line between recent efforts by Department of Homeland Security officials to prevent Congressional visits to border facilities and the agents in those facilities. “The openness and respect from the people on the ground, particularly the career Border Patrol agents, seems inconsistent with the apparent move by DHS leadership to deny congressional staff access to facilities,” Porter tweeted.
Porter also offered six suggestions on how to improve the situation at the border. Some, like better medical training for border agents and more consistent policies on parole, are good. But her first, “better technology will help secure the border,” is unfortunate, and a dangerous giveaway to the Trump Administration.
Seriously, this goes to the heart of the inhumanity that has rotted away U.S. immigration policy to the point that it’s indistinguishable from raw brutality. Phrases like “secure the border” are militaristic and imply some sort of invasion–which is the exact opposite of what’s happening today.
The people who find themselves alienated and abused in U.S. border facilities and detention camps today are not criminals. They’ve come here seeking a better life–safer communities, better medical care, greater job opportunities. Many are seeking asylum, which is not a crime. They are not “illegal”–a human being cannot be “illegal.” Nonetheless, all are being punished with intolerable cruelty.
And it will continue to get worse. Calls for “bipartisan” solutions that include plans to “secure the border” do nothing but surrender to the Trump Administration, which is entirely driven by a creepy, apocalyptic white nationalist agenda. At this point, it’s hard to see how anything less than the complete dismantling of ICE accomplishes anything good. I can appreciate the political precariousness of both Representatives Levin and Porter, having recently been elected to districts that could easily swing back to Republicans in 2020. But if we’re going to do more than simply ask politely that the U.S. government start treating immigrants–documented and undocumented–with respect and decency, then stronger measures are required.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.