UPDATE: On Thursday night, Donald Trump signed an executive order that orders children to be detained indefinitely at the border with their parents. It was still unclear how or whether children who were already separated will be reunited with their parents. And it is also not clear whether the new order is even legal, in light of laws limiting the length of time families can be detained.
More and more images are coming in every day from the American gulag that is being set up on the outskirts of Trump’s biggest fiefdom, i.e. the southern border of the United States. Since last month, immigrants and asylum seekers, already victims of abuse and mistreatment by smugglers, bandits and local authorities, have been subjected to a new form of unbridled cruelty, which is the best embodiment yet of the grim true face of Trumpism: the permanent “removal” of children from their parents.
Civil rights lawyers report having talked to immigrant women detained in a migrant detention facility in Washington state, while one could hear the screams and desperate crying of children from nearby rooms (some aged between 2 and 5), which had been stolen from their mothers and were being “relocated.” From April 19 to mid-May alone, almost 2,000 small children have suffered this fate, in accordance with the administration’s new strategy of “deterrence.”
In Texas, a father from Honduras took his own life one day after his 5-year-old son had been snatched, crying, from his arms. In the same state, in Brownsville, an agent of the border guard quit after he had been forbidden to offer any solace to three little children who were in tears because they had no news of their mother, in accordance with the ban on hugs that apparently is in force for the staff of the children’s detention camps. In order to steal away their children, the border agents usually assure the parents that the children only have to “take a shower,” and take them away to another room. This is the last memory that the fathers and mothers, who are then locked up in adult detention centers, have of their sons and daughters.
More so than many previous Trumpian absurdities, the scandal of the “stolen children”—echoing a litany of similar sinister eugenic abuses suffered by the Indians, the Aborigines, the Irish and many other ethnically or socially subordinate populations—has aroused a general public outcry. Many have come out against this militarized form of child abuse: members of Congress, intellectuals and religious figures, in a bipartisan wave of outrage that has seen even the former Republican first lady Laura Bush draft an article that pulled no punches (a “cruel” and “immoral” policy). Even the current first lady, Melania Trump, said she “hates to see children separated from their families.”
In the face of the mounting criticism, Trump first tried to deny the evidence (a line taken up again this week by the director of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen), then tried to lay the blame on “horrible laws” inherited from “the Democrats,” implying at the same time that he would be willing to consider a “prisoner exchange”: the children could be reunited with their parents if Congress passed a reform that would eliminate family-based immigration and the visa lottery and that would finance his infamous border wall. Many realized that this “offer” was nothing else than the ransom demand of a kidnapper.
Two Republican bills are being debated in Congress, but neither refers explicitly to the treatment of detained children.
For the time being, the institutionalized kidnapping and imprisonment of minors will continue, in accordance with the explicit instructions of the chief of staff, John Kelly, and Trump’s head of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions. The latter, an old-school “racist gentleman” from Alabama, invoked a biblical justification for the policy—which, surprisingly enough, did not invoke the Herod precedent, but rather a Pauline letter, using it to claim that the authority of government is the embodiment of the divine will. The White House’s Mephistophelean spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, backed him up, claiming that the Bible calls for respecting the laws.
However, every time they invoke the authority of law and following orders, sinister historical parallels are becoming more and more plausible (just like what we are seeing now around the Mediterranean). What clearer and more disturbing sign than the large portrait of the billionaire-president which sternly occupies a wall of the “Father’s House” detention center in Texas (a former Wal-Mart, with steel mesh cells), and who greets the children-detainees in pure Mussolini style: “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war” (see Art of the Deal, by Donald Trump).
It has become clear now why some of the first who expressed their solidarity with the victims of the Muslim ban were the Japanese-Americans of California, who remember the compulsory registration (or “census” in today’s terms) of their fathers and grandfathers in the 1940s, who were then locked up in prison camps, as potential enemy agents, for the whole duration of the Second World War. Their case, a staple of civics textbooks and an indelible reminder of American Fascism, has found a striking echo in what is being done today—although not even in those prison camps did they go so far as to separate the babies from their mothers.
This newest “just war” waged against children gives the full measure of a US that has twisted in on itself from the poisonous injection of Trumpism, and of the real consequences of the policy of systematic cruelty which stokes the resentments that underpin xenophobic and identitarian regimes. Having riled up a pitchfork-wielding mob right from the start of the election campaign against elitist platitudes and “political correctness,” aiming at the brutalist catharsis of deportations and internments, Trump’s regime has now reached such a level of irrationality that it will be very difficult now to manage to close Pandora’s box.
Meanwhile, the hatred thus fomented and “sanctioned” is spreading, in an increasingly numerous series of episodes where “foreigners” are accosted, insulted and threatened in the streets, in shops and in offices—daily micro-eruptions of open and fierce racism.
In this way, we are seeing the full contours of the prevailing American neo-Fascism clearly delineated, by its paradigmatic attack on those who are, by definition, the most defenseless. The “eugenic core” of Trumpism is revealed, as well as its deep motivations tied to the racial insecurity of whites who are in demographic decline, and its declared strategy—as Trump explicitly admitted—to contain an avalanche of people who are crossing the border, supposedly, to vote for the Democrats.
Their plan is thus to close off the borders, build a border wall, and even build walls around polling stations to keep the minorities away. The first step was the canceling of DACA, the form of temporary amnesty awarded to almost one million students and undergraduates who are non-citizens—i.e. who are symbols for “successful” integration, and thus are seen as an increasingly imminent threat by the white and male establishment (who support Trump 71-29 percent, according to the latest polls).
Just as in Europe, the game is played at the level of blocking migratory flows under the false pretenses of a fight against globalism. But while the European subtext is the consequences of colonialism, in the US exploitation, slavery and imperialist capitalism were implicitly present in the waves of successive immigrants that have made up their societal model. In that society, progress has gone hand in hand with the emancipation and integration of ethnic and social minorities.
Trumpism has now taken up the mantle of reversing an intrinsic historical process. Nothing less than the fundamental concept of the US as a nation depends on the war that is playing out today using defenseless Central American children as pawns. At the same time, the country’s own multiethnic elements might be able to provide the most effective opposition.
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