Cruelty on Immigration is Un-American

The following editorial appeared in The Washington Post:

Families and unaccompanied children detained at the Mexican border are often fleeing horrific conditions in Central American countries, especially El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where violent gangs, drug trafficking and rampant criminality contribute to some of the world’s highest murder rates.

Now the Trump administration, alarmed at the recent surge in border crossers, is considering a new strategy to deter them.

The message: “You think your native country is cruel? America is even crueller.”

That’s the logic behind a proposal under consideration by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that would try to discourage migrant families from crossing the border by threatening to separate parents from their children when they are taken into custody in the United States.

Until now, that approach has been beyond the pale for U.S. officials, who rejected it as inhumane and coldhearted in the extreme, given the trauma it would inflict on children, who by definition are innocent.

If Nielsen gives the green light to break up migrant families, she would be responsible for a policy whose heartlessness would rival that of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the forcible internment of some 110,000 U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II.

Four decades after that act of mass inhumanity, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation formally apologizing for it.

In November, more than 7,000 “family units” were taken into custody at the border, a 45 percent surge compared with October; in the same month, the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border shot up by a quarter.

U.S. officials are correct that those families take tremendous risks, often at the hands of coldblooded smugglers who guide them north to the border.

They are also justified in wanting to discourage migrants from undertaking the journey, in which ransom, rape and other forms of abuse are rampant.

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