Donald Trump lied an average of 15 times a day in 2018, tripling his 2017 tally, according to the Washington Post.
His record dramatically increased over his 35-day government shutdown, during which Trump fanned his xenophobic flames by telling the nation a menacing force of migrants threatened national security. In reality, he referred to defeated human beings forced to migrate by misery, violence, and the effects of climate change in their countries.
After caving in and reopening the government in his most spectacular political defeat, Trump threatened to do it all over again and declare a national emergency, which would require the Armed Forces to build his medieval wall. Reality, however, has revealed the size of his folly, and his so-called “border crisis.”
According to his own Department of Homeland Security, in FY 2017 Customs and Border Protection registered the lowest number of undocumented border crossings ever. In the Southwest corner of the border, the number of arrests of undocumented migrants in FY 2018 dropped to its lowest level in 46 years. According to the Border Patrol, since 2000 the arrest of undocumented Mexicans decreased by 90 percent. And between 2010 and 2017, the number of undocumented immigrants in the country went down by one million, from 11.7 to 10.7 million, according to the Center for Migratory Studies. Even his own intelligence community testified in Congress that there is no border emergency. Crisis? What crisis?
“In one particular case, this one family from the state of Guerrero told us, ‘The cartels want to take our kids from us, and we came here thinking that we were going to be safe only to see that the US government is also taking kids away’.”
Joanna Williams, Kino Border Initiative
Truth is, however, Trump’s cruel order to separate families turned out to be much worse than anticipated. An audit at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed that “thousands” more children were separated from their families than originally admitted.
“What is striking to us is the inhumanity on the side of the United States regarding what’s happening to immigrant families,” says Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy at the Kino Border Initiative, a catholic group providing humanitarian help for migrant families in Nogales, México.
According to Amnesty International, the administration has separated some 8,000 family units, instead of the 2,737 that HHS had acknowledged.
“We see very high levels of stress, fear and anxiety among migrants,” adds Williams. “In one particular case, this one family from the state of Guerrero told us, ‘The cartels want to take our kids from us and we came here thinking that we were going to be safe only to see that the US government is also taking kids away’.”
Studies conducted in Romania, Australia and China show that separating children from their parents can be catastrophic and change their brains forever. Charles Nelson, a pediatrician at the Harvard School of Medicine and expert in family separations, told the Washington Post that his observations have even brought him to tears. When they grow up, he says, separated children experience much less brain development, their cerebral activity is much weaker and their IQs much lower. Separation, he adds, destroys the fundamental biological attachment between mother and child, an essential bond for the minor’s emotional development.
Even though Trump suspended his family separation order, his administration has shown no remorse, failing to fulfill a court order to reunite the families, and he has never taken back his insults to immigrants.
“We have had migrants who have asked us, ‘Do you consider us animals? Because we have seen that in the United States they see us as animals’,” says Williams, adding that this affects their own sense of dignity and self-worth, in addition to all the physical and psychological effects of migration.
We Latinos on both sides of the border are exhausted of being scapegoated by Trump and his immigration policy bullies, exhausted of being his piñata to fan the xenophobic fervor of his followers.
“We see parents that are deported after having lived for many years in the United States and separated from their children,” recalls Williams, “and one of them said to me, ‘The eyes have their time for crying, but the heart will never stop crying’.”
On January 25, Trump hit a wall of resistance and finally reopened the government. Who knows what the future has in store. But at least for now, with the wall on pause and people in power who are willing to stand up to Trump, we Latinos are not completely at his mercy.
Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC.
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