The best way to stop the horrific separation of children from their families at the border is to pay attention to what is happening to their parents.
Around the country, people have reacted to the images of children in cages and stories of infants being pulled from their mothers by ICE and Border Patrol agents with appropriate anger and disgust. Communities are organizing to push back on these attacks as best as they can. It is right that we want to remedy the immediate crisis, but we must go beyond that to truly end it.
What has been less paid attention to is that the parents are being criminally prosecuted, facing up to 20 years in prison for simply migrating. It is this criminal prosecution for “illegal entry” and “re-entry” by the Department of Justice that allows for the government to take children away, put them in cages, or send them to live with complete strangers, while their parents sit in private prisons.
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has a clear agenda for the Justice Department. It includes ramping up new ways of criminalizing and incarcerating people while rolling back criminal justice and policing reforms. Criminally prosecuting migrants is a major piece of his plan. Sessions and his staff are re-imagining the structure of immigration enforcement and criminalization in this country, so that most migrants will spend up to 20 years in private prisons before being transferred to immigration enforcement and eventually deported as felons. Sessions has given clear indications of this plan, and its implementation is now accelerating.
As is often the case with immigration enforcement policy, the US/Mexico borderlands are the laboratory for crackdown. It is critical to understand that as part of this agenda, immigrants are not only being prosecuted at the border. Migrants who were recently detained during immigration raids in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Austin, Chicago, New York City and Morristown, Tennessee, have been prosecuted and…