FLOTUS visits Texas detention center, sparks outrage over “insensitive” jacket choice
AFTER President Donald Trump signed an executive order this week to seize separating families seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, there is reportedly widespread uncertainty among federal agencies on how to enact the measure.
As previously reported by the Asian Journal, the president signed the order on Wednesday, June 20 after facing intense political pressure for enforcing a measure in his “zero-tolerance policy” that separated more than 2,300 children from their parents or guardians at the border.
Previously, the president defended the policy, insisting it was the law and that he was legally unable to reverse the measure. His signing of the executive order signaled a political retreat after overwhelming rebuke over images, video and audio of children being detained in cage-like facilities captured the world’s indignation toward the administration.
The executive order directed the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to keep families detained together from here on, but it didn’t articulate a clear plan or measure to reunite the currently separated families. According to the Associated Press, a senior Trump administration official said that 500 of the children who have been separated have been reunited, but it wasn’t clear how many of these children were still detained with their families.
In the two days after the executive order was signed, chaos ensued among confused migrant families and equally confused government officials at the border and in Washington because it was unclear as to what the practical execution of the order should be. Children have been taken to juvenile shelters far away from the parents’ detention centers. Some parents have been deported without their children, like one Guatemalan mother who was deported without her son, according to a New York Times story.
According to the Pentagon, there would be space available for 20,000 migrant children on four military basis, but it wasn’t certain if this space was for unaccompanied minors or families. Additionally, the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement that it is “awaiting further guidance on the implementation of the executive order” before providing shelter.
Trump’s executive order did not calm the outrage propagated by the widespread family separation at the border. Americans, activist organizations and lawmakers across all political spectrums and causes came out in opposition to the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis at the border over the last few weeks.
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), an alliance of Fil-Am organizations, officially condemned the Trump administration for the recent events and ordered Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform to put an end to “inhumane” practices like family separation.
“Like many of our Filipino family members, immigrants come to America to pursue opportunity, escape poverty, or reunite with their loved ones,” said NaFFAA National Chairman Brendan Flores in a statement. “We urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that creates a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and protects the family-based immigration system.”
Lawmakers have also been making moves to address the border crisis and immigration as a whole. Before the executive order was signed, Democrat and Republican lawmakers swiftly introduced bills to reverse the family separation practice.
Taiwanese-American Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who has been a fervent and vocal advocate for immigrants’ rights and opposer of Trump, played the widely-circulated ProPublica audio of children crying in detention centers to advocate for immediate action at the border on House floor despite the presiding Republican urging him to stop for violating House rules of “decorum.”
“2,300 kids were ripped away from parents with no real plan to reunite them. I can’t play the @ProPublica audio of their cries for help because of ‘decorum’? F*** decorum. @realDonaldTrump engaged in the functional equivalent of kidnapping. The American people need to hear this,” Lieu tweeted on Friday, June 22.
Per the executive order, the Trump administration orders border patrol agents to “maintain family unity, including by detaining [immigrant] families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.” The executive order also blames “Congress’s failure to act” on guaranteeing funding for Trump’s massive border wall for families being separated, according to the executive order.
The sharp increase of Central American children being separated from their parents was due to a new Trump administration policy that refers all adult border crossers — even those seeking asylum — to criminal prosecution (even if they have few or no previous offenses) on top of the standard immigration proceedings. Since children cannot be prosecuted, they would be sent to separate detention centers from their parents.
While the executive order changes the procedure from when it was signed, it does not provide any clear plan for any of the federal agencies as well as the families. Unless the administration does enact a clear plan to reunite these children with their families, many of them will be placed with family members in the U.S. or sponsors who will take them in.
Trump said that he was pressured by First Lady Melania Trump and his daughter and White House senior advisor Ivanka Trump to sign the executive order.
“We’re signing an executive order I consider to be a very important executive order,” Trump said in his remarks in the Oval Office on Wednesday. “We are keeping families together, and this will solve that problem. At the same time, we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero-tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”
The president also claimed that family separation at the border is “a problem that’s gone on for many years, as you know, through many administration,” which is untrue.
As previously reported by the Asian Journal, the practice of separation children from their parents — as well as husbands from wives — was a feature in Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy” which automatically prosecutes all border crossers, even those seeking asylum. That means on top of an immigration case (which could take months to process), they are also hit with a criminal charge.
Since children cannot be prosecuted, they were to be detained separately from their parents awaiting adjudication. The policy was first announced in May by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who described family separation as deterrence to discourage people from seeking refuge in the U.S.
The First Lady causes outrage at Texas detention visit
After expressing opposition to the family separations, First Lady Melania Trump hastily paid a visit to a youth detention center in McAllen, Texas on Thursday, June 21 to get an in-person look at the crisis affecting hundreds of families at the border.
“I want to thank you for your hard work, your compassion and your kindness,” the first lady told the medical staff and social workers at the Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter. The FLOTUS was the first member of Trump’s inner circle to take a firsthand look at the situation.
“She wants to see what’s real,” FLOTUS spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said on CNN in a news briefing.
However, what she wore en route to McAllen caught more attention than her visit. The first lady was photographed boarding the plane in Washington wearing an olive green jacket from Zara which said on the back: “I really don’t care. Do U?”
The immediate assumption implicit in the outrage was that the message was directed at those she was visiting and at the issue of inhumane immigration practices in general. The first lady’s team insisted there was no hidden undertones to her wardrobe choice, Grisham saying, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.” (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)