Just after noon Eastern Time today, on World Refugee Day, the president of the United States got small in his hole and backed down on his vicious policy of separating children from their families at the US/Mexico border. Appearing before a restive gaggle of reporters, Donald Trump announced he would be “signing something” later in the afternoon to effectively end the separation practice. A few hours later, the executive order ending family separations was signed.
The executive order, it is important to note, does not end the “zero-tolerance” policy that created this debacle in the first place. Migrants trying to cross the border illegally will still be arrested but will not have their children taken away. More ominously, the order’s method for keeping families together involves ending the ban on imprisoning children for no more than 20 days, which means the children will be subject to indefinite detention along with their parents.
“The order,” according to The New York Times, “would keep families together, though it is unclear how Mr. Trump intends to claim the legal authority to violate what have been legal constraints on the proper treatment of children in government custody, which prevented former President Barack Obama from detaining families together during a similar flood of illegal immigration two years ago.”
In doing this, Trump is attempting a mighty straddle: He is trying to defuse what has become a caustic political crisis by ending family separations, but at the same time is trying to retain the veneer of toughness adored by his supporters by keeping the zero-tolerance policy still fully in place. All of these migrants are still getting locked up, including the children, indefinitely. The only difference is they will be together when the cage doors close. It is the living definition of “cold comfort.”
As for the thousands of children who have already been separated from their parents, no immediate solution has been presented. The Trump…