STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Trump whips up immigration storm over children

For President Donald Trump, every crisis in America's immigration system is an opportunity.As controversy grow...

Posted: May 29, 2018 1:23 PM
Updated: May 29, 2018 1:23 PM

For President Donald Trump, every crisis in America's immigration system is an opportunity.

As controversy grows over his administration's treatment of children separated from undocumented immigrant parents, Trump is seeking a political opening to damage his opponents and solidify his own support.

It's a classic strategy that he has deployed in toxic immigration wars before: Tout his toughness and dedication to law and order while blaming Democrats for not fixing the system's problems.

It's a play that is likely to win approval from GOP base voters who saw in Trump a truth-teller on immigration whose tough policies and promise to build a wall could lacerate what they saw as liberal political correctness over the issue. Trump opponents see his policies as appeasing a hard-line stream of nationalist thought on the far right that is dedicated to stopping both illegal and legal immigration.

The President repeatedly pleads with his supporters to show up at the polls in November to fend off enthusiastic Democratic voters, knowing his political future in Washington depends on the GOP clinging onto the House and Senate.

GOP leaders are already worried the ongoing effort by moderates to force a House vote on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, a program Trump moved to end last year but has been kept alive by the courts, will depress base turnout.

Trump chose to wage his latest political battle over his administration's policy of separating children from parents caught crossing the border illegally and liable for criminal prosecution. The controversy over the policy coincides with separate revelations that his administration lost track of nearly 1,500 children taken from parents awaiting adjudication of immigration cases and placed in foster homes or with sponsors.

The government's apparent disinclination or inability to find those children is an ill omen for thousands more who could be funneled to a similar fate under the Trump administration's enforcement drive.

The President poured oil on the fire on Saturday.

"Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there (sic) parents once they cross the Border into the US," Trump tweeted.

The President said earlier this month that: "we have to break up families ...the Democrats gave us that law. It's a horrible thing, we have to break up families."

But there is no law requiring the government to separate kids of undocumented migrants or asylum seekers from their parents -- least of all one passed by Democrats.

It is the Trump administration's own policy to refer every person caught crossing the border illegally for federal prosecution, with the result that children are separated from their parents because they cannot legally follow them into the federal prison system.

The law on that issue was a bipartisan initiative, approved by unanimous consent and signed by Republican President George W. Bush, as CNN's Jake Tapper and FactCheck.org have reported. It does not require parents and children to be separated at the border.

The law requires unaccompanied minors from nations other than Mexico or Canada to be sent to the care of the Office for Refugee Settlement or relatives in the US while removal proceedings take place.

Tough deterrent

The administration has made no secret of the fact that it hopes the likelihood that families will be broken up will deter undocumented migration.

On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the current administration's policy explicit, in an apparent attempt to deter border crossings.

"If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law," Sessions said.

In an interview with NPR in May, White House chief of staff John Kelly described family separation as a "tough deterrent."

"The children will be taken care of -- put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long," Kelly said.

Critics of Trump's policies say the President is willfully confusing the issue and exploiting the welfare of children as it drives home its zero tolerance immigration policy.

"You have a purposeful abuse of children for political gain," said David Leopold, the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

"(Trump) throws out a lie -- it is an intentional lie, to get the media and commentators focused on something that isn't true and his base believes it," Leopold said.

The plight of unaccompanied children who cross the border is the latest immigration storm whipped up by the Trump White House, and includes travel restrictions on people from some Muslim nations and the uncertainty facing of DACA recipients -- undocumented migrants brought to the US as kids.

The issue again raises the question of whether Trump's determination to stiffen immigration laws conflicts with the nation's fundamental values -- and a wider humanitarian duty to protect children.

In the same Saturday tweet, Trump also escalated his rhetoric on immigration in a way that is likely to further inflame the political atmosphere that will make any resolution of the issue even more elusive.

"Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS," Trump tweeted, highlighting the most divisive aspects on a debate that has been rocking US politics for more than a decade.

Monday afternoon, he continued in another tweet: "Remember, the Nancy Pelosi Dems are also weak on Crime, the Border and want to be gentle and kind to MS-13 gang members...not good!"

Base pleasing play

Trump, of course, is not the only political figure who believes he can steer the immigration debate to his own advantage: for years, Democrats have appealed to Hispanic voters -- a core part of their own base -- and promised sweeping and comprehensive reform.

Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro is organizing a #WhereAreTheChildren rally in San Antonio on Thursday that is likely to be only one of many Democratic efforts to appeal to their own base following Trump's assault.

"When I think about the 1500 lost children and those who are systematically separated from their mothers at the border, I come back to the same thought: If we can't stop this in America we won't stop it anywhere," Castro tweeted on Sunday.

But no modern President has so consciously sought to peel open divides on immigration -- one of the most fundamental political issues across the Western world -- to the same extent as Trump has done.

In recent years, every effort to reshape America's immigration system dating back to the second term of the Bush administration has foundered on the vicious political divides opened up every time a key aspect of the debate flares up.

The controversy over family separation could also complicate attempts by some moderate Republicans to protect themselves from the fallout of Trump's tough rhetoric.

The rebellious lawmakers are attempting to force a vote against the House GOP leadership's wishes on a set of immigration bills.

The group is getting close to the 218 signatures it needs to automatically trigger a vote -- after winning the support of almost all Democrats.

House Republican leadership has been working with other lawmakers to try to force a vote on issues from border funding to citizenship in a way that could head off the revolt. But Trump's latest decision to fan the flames could throw all those careful calculations and sensitive efforts into the political trash can.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295357

Reported Deaths: 5305
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion40796844
Lake25864448
Allen17025289
Elkhart16389209
St. Joseph16125217
Hamilton12225163
Vanderburgh9218112
Tippecanoe807627
Porter770176
Johnson5971161
Hendricks5719154
Vigo563274
Monroe519846
Clark486774
Delaware4721103
Madison4651119
Kosciusko437339
LaPorte436792
Howard321375
Warrick309072
Floyd301177
Bartholomew296262
Wayne292261
Cass291231
Marshall283642
Grant254147
Noble244246
Hancock238949
Henry234136
Boone231754
Dubois229230
Dearborn204629
Jackson200033
Morgan196043
Gibson171622
Knox170715
Clinton170420
Shelby170453
Lawrence169246
DeKalb168428
Adams160019
Miami150414
Daviess149143
Wabash148118
Fayette141233
Steuben139713
LaGrange135127
Jasper134911
Harrison134624
Montgomery127926
Whitley127410
Ripley121414
Decatur119842
Posey116613
Putnam115626
Wells115427
Huntington115210
White115221
Randolph114619
Clay111821
Jefferson110314
Scott97918
Greene97553
Jay93012
Starke87021
Sullivan85515
Perry80521
Spencer7957
Jennings79114
Fulton78717
Fountain7257
Washington6966
Carroll65313
Orange64828
Franklin63525
Owen5676
Vermillion5662
Newton53412
Parke5296
Tipton52826
Blackford50011
Rush5006
Pike49618
Pulaski36410
Martin3425
Brown3153
Benton3101
Crawford2711
Union2551
Switzerland2453
Warren2272
Ohio2227
Unassigned0265

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 351419

Reported Deaths: 5996
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin48389665
Cuyahoga34096734
Hamilton28674371
Montgomery19082225
Butler14138144
Lucas13446406
Summit12431309
Stark8122197
Warren770375
Mahoning6772299
Lake625466
Lorain590297
Clermont541946
Delaware521435
Licking506275
Fairfield505163
Trumbull4969144
Greene489662
Clark486664
Marion451451
Allen446384
Wood4243107
Medina413354
Miami398565
Pickaway387948
Columbiana328496
Portage323171
Wayne303593
Tuscarawas299557
Richland293929
Mercer281237
Ross234559
Hancock225336
Muskingum223610
Auglaize218925
Putnam218649
Darke208058
Erie205565
Ashtabula204753
Geauga189451
Scioto186713
Lawrence181336
Athens17954
Union17928
Shelby176715
Seneca165018
Belmont151529
Madison151018
Sandusky144427
Preble143821
Huron139218
Holmes137039
Defiance131121
Knox118818
Logan118313
Fulton117225
Ottawa114730
Crawford114216
Washington112427
Clinton100314
Williams9938
Jefferson9894
Ashland98322
Highland96317
Henry94422
Brown9324
Champaign8935
Jackson87312
Fayette86617
Van Wert8596
Morrow8312
Hardin82518
Guernsey79213
Coshocton78813
Perry73312
Pike7081
Adams70611
Wyandot68916
Gallia68113
Paulding61710
Hocking58511
Noble56121
Carroll41610
Meigs36312
Monroe29921
Morgan2342
Vinton2075
Harrison1823
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 32°
Angola
28° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 28°
Huntington
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 32°
Decatur
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 32°
Van Wert
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 32°
Snow/Rain Showers Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events