Border separations ripple through midterm campaigns
By BILL BARROW
Wednesday, June 20
Wrenching scenes of migrant children being separated from their parents at the southern border are roiling campaigns ahead of midterm elections, emboldening Democrats on the often-fraught issue of immigration while forcing an increasing number of Republicans to break from President Donald Trump on an issue important to the GOP’s most ardent supporters.
Kim Schrier, a Democrat running for a House seat outside of Seattle, said Trump is pushing an “absolutely unethical, inhumane” policy.
“We are talking about American values, not Democratic values or Republican values, and this is something that will flip people to a Democrat in this election,” Schrier said.
That prospect was enough for House Republicans’ national campaign chairman, Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, to offer cover Monday to vulnerable GOP members. Stivers said in a statement that he’s asking “the administration to stop needlessly separating children from their parents” and suggested he’d examine legislative options if Trump doesn’t budge.
Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, whose suburban Denver district is often a battleground, took the cover Stivers provided. He didn’t mention Trump, but said the border policy “is antithetical to the America I grew up in.” He said he’s willing to co-sponsor a House version of a Senate proposal from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would halt the family separations, and he echoed claims Democrats had made for days: “History won’t remember well those who support the continuation of this policy.”
Democrat Jason Crow, a leading candidate to unseat Coffman, said the congressman can’t run from his previous support for “zero-tolerance” border security. “This is what that looks like,” Crow said, adding that as “an American and as a father” he finds the border situation “immoral.”
With control of the House — and potentially the Senate — up for grabs, the searing images coming from the border have the potential to scramble midterm politics. Though controversy has dominated Trump’s presidency, the growing furor over the separations struck a deeply emotional chord in both parties that may not calm anytime soon — even in districts that don’t have large immigrant or Hispanic populations.
Pennsylvania’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, another vulnerable Republican, said he plans to visit the border “to see what’s going on down there with my own eyes.” He called the detainees “our planet’s children” and said they shouldn’t be punished “for things that their parents do or don’t do.”
The political reverberations from the separations could last well beyond the midterms. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a potential 2020 presidential candidate, said Monday that Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen should resign.
Trump along with most Republicans have long believed that they have held the upper hand on immigration. While Democrats have argued that most Americans support granting a path to citizenship for children who were brought to the U.S. illegally, the Republican base is fervently opposed to such measures — and votes accordingly. That’s why some political observers say this moment is so unique.
“It’s been tough for Democrats to bring the issue of compassion out on a national scale” when talking about immigration, said James Aldrete, a Democratic campaign consultant in Texas. But now, Aldrete said, “Trump has done it for us.”
Democrats are hoping the issue will encourage more Latino voters to show up on Election Day, while also providing an opening for non-Hispanic independents in other swing districts.
At the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, spokesman Tyler Law said candidates can now frame “a potent issue” by “being authentic and talking about your own families, your own children.”
Democrats also are buoyed by Trump drawing criticism from typically GOP friendly territory: the religious community. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which often wades into politics with its opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage, has decried the administration, as have mainline Protestant churches, the Mormon Church and evangelical leaders.
At least one Democrat running in a conservative-leaning House district in North Carolina combined Law’s advice with the words of another Republican critic: former first lady Laura Bush. “As a young parent, I can’t imagine the thought of my children being taken away from me, into the hands of strangers who aren’t allowed to comfort my crying toddler,” Dan McCready posted on his Facebook page alongside an op-ed that Mrs. Bush penned for the Washington Post.
In a Texas district that includes about a third of the southern border, Democratic candidate Gina Ortiz Jones hasn’t had to be timid. She talked about immigration before family separation came to the forefront. But she said the matter allows her to highlight the priorities of the Republican administration and Congress, even as her opponent, Republican Rep. Will Hurd, also decries the Trump administration policy.
“What we are seeing is a pattern of using children as political pawns,” she said, referring to Republican maneuvering on health care before approving funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the GOP’s failure to secure any kind of fix for the young “Dreamer” immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
“We can’t have folks doing the right thing only when they realize they are in a vulnerable seat,” she said.
Still, Democratic pollster Paul Maslin offered a caveat to members of his party sensing a new opening: the public’s short attention span. “In Trump world, the stories change daily, if not hourly,” he said. “It was North Korea just last week. Immigration this week. Next week, who knows? Round and round we go.”
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.
Separation of Immigrant Families Is Institutionalized Cruelty
by José-Antonio Orosco
As I listened to the recording of immigrant kids crying because they were being separated from their parents, I heard the Border Patrol agent joke that they sounded like an orchestra without a conductor. My reaction was to wonder how anyone could be so cruel to the fear of young children. What could make a person so cold to that kind of pain?
The incident reminded me of philosopher Phillip Hallie who wrote about the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Hallie pointed out that amid the daily horror of the camps, there were guards who had not been broken down by the constant show of degradation and would display kindness to the prisoners. They would share a kind word, or sneak an extra roll of bread to a starving person. Such examples are often used to argue that despite cruel situations, there might be solitary individuals who recognize the humanity of others. The Border Patrol agent laughing at children in terror doesn’t seem to be one of those.
But Hallie warns that we shouldn’t narrow our focus on the morality of individuals or on episodic instances of cruelty or kindness when thinking of the concentration camps. In fact, a Nazi guard’s smile or an extra ration from the camp kitchen only works to remind the prisoners that there is a world in which people can be kind and people are treated with dignity, but they aren’t part of that world inside the camp.
Hallie argues that the way to comprehend the immorality of slavery or of the Nazi concentration camps is with the idea of “institutionalized cruelty”—the way in that the individual infliction of pain and suffering becomes normal, justified, and everyday. The Nazi guards could kill, beat, starve, torture prisoners because they had lived for years with their leaders telling them that their country, and their own families, were threatened by enemies who were not quite human. Ordinary Germans tolerated the Nazi policies because they became convinced by Nazi rhetoric they were somehow morally better than Jews, and therefore, deserved to control and dominate them.
Recent public opinion polls suggest that 28 percent of Americans approve of the President’s policy of separating immigrant children from parents at the borders; among those identifying as Republican the approval shoots up to almost 60 percent. These numbers indicate that more than 1 in 4 Americans think that there is an immigration crisis facing the nation that requires an extraordinary effort of cruelty to solve. How could they be convinced of that?
Trump started his presidential campaign in 2016 by railing against Mexican immigrants as dangerous criminals, assuring his followers that (only) some of them are good people. He continued this way of thinking at the beginning of this year, bemoaning that the only kinds of refugees we attracted came from (expletive deleted) countries. Then he warned that our laws were letting in “animals,” having then to clarify that he meant specific MS-13 gang members and not undocumented immigrants in general. The ambiguity in Trump’s language might be attributed to lazy speech, but just this week he reiterated that immigrants want to “infest” our country. It’s clear that when it comes to immigrants, Trump relies on metaphors about animals, insects, disease, filth, and crime. It’s really not surprising that cruel policies follow such patterns of thinking.
Hallie pointed out that the remedy to institutionalized cruelty is not kindness but what he called “hospitality”—caring for the victim of cruelty in a way that removes them from the relationship of domination that makes them suffer. Hallie’s heroes were the people who sheltered runaway Jewish families and kept them out of the grasp of the Nazis. This suggests that what we need now is not just a reform to keep immigrant families together, but also a recommitment to assist refugees and asylum seekers and attention to the economic and political circumstances that are creating waves of migrants to our borders. And we need to stand up to the dehumanizing language from our leaders that hardens hearts and then, crushes bodies. Like Hallie’s heroes, we ought show kindness not only by alleviating the suffering inside the tent cities where immigrant families are being detained, but by making sure that such places don’t come to exist at all.
José-Antonio Orosco, Ph.D, writes for PeaceVoiceand is Associate Professor of Philosophy: School of History, Philosophy, and Religion Director, Oregon State University Peace Studies Program.
These are people. We have to care.
John Kasich — Governor of Ohio
When I look down at the border, I feel as though in some people’s eyes these people are objects, that they’re not people. Well, they are people. They’re flesh and they’re blood and they bleed and they cry. We have to care about them.
ICYMI: John Kasich: “This solution is insane. It’s ridiculous. You can’t start dividing families.”
June 19, 2018
Last night Governor Kasich talked with Brian Williams on The 11th Hour about the recent immigration actions by the Trump administration. Governor Kasich said the Trump administration’s “solution is insane. It’s ridiculous. You can’t start dividing families.”
Kasich also said, “This is not the America you and I have known throughout our lifetime here…When I look down at the border, I feel as though in some people’s eyes these people are objects, they’re not people. They are people. They’re flesh and they’re blood and they bleed and they cry. We have to care about them. How we ultimately solve this is something that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t take away from the fact that the human element is what’s most important here. We have an expectation to do something that’s bold, and has courage and is big and is righteous.”