Fecteau: Cruelty At The Border


The Trump administration has embraced a policy of separating families allegedly seeking asylum on the border who unlawfully cross into the United States. This cruel law is nothing new, but being enforced in a much different way in the past.

This policy of zero tolerance towards unlawful immigration began under President George W. Bush. The policy, called Operation Streamline, authorized the Bush administration to expedite the deportation of individuals that were deemed to be here illegally.

The separation of families at the border is all on Trump, Matt Fecteau points out.

However, even the Bush administration made exceptions for families. The Obama administration adopted a similar approach. Eventually, after a court ruling, the Obama administration even allowed families to stay in the country awaiting a legal decision of their status – then along came President Donald Trump.

A Misguided Policy

The Trump administration’s approach is Bush’s and Obama’s approach minus the empathy. There is no specific policy saying to separate families at the border (including “Democratic laws” as Trump says). Per Trump’s revised policy, any adult or adults accompanied by children to have come here unlawfully (mostly outside the ports of U.S. entry) will be referred for prosecution, and due to other federal laws, separated from their children. From there, the children (under 18 years of age) are considered “unaccompanied” and sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement which attempts to release the child or children to the nearest relative in the United States.

Despite the misleading rhetoric, families are being separated because of the Trump administration’s revisions of the federal policy. Thus far 2,700 families have been separated so far. The tremendous backlog has caused enormous problems for an already under-resourced federal agency. Because of the upsurge in detained children at the border, the U.S. government is having difficulty locating places to put them.

This falls on Trump’s shoulders (not the Democrats!). It was his administration that decided to federally prosecute all those that came here unlawfully, and it was his administration that separated these families.

A Callous Approach

Trump’s callous approach to some families seeking refugee status is un-American. A vast, vast majority of these people are in search of a better life, and a substantially lengthy wait at the border to ‘potentially’ be admitted to the United States as a refugee is simply not an option.

The United States is a place of laws, but the Trump administration has twisted those laws into a cudgel to cruelly rip families apart. We are also a country that is the beacon of hope for the very families that the Trump administration is tearing apart. The Trump and his administration are responsible for these terrible policies putting twisted laws before our humanity.

Matthew Fecteau
Matt Fecteau of Pawtucket, Rhode Island is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and an Iraq War veteran. Send him email at Matthew.Fecteau@gmail.com