America changed. Donald Trump is a transformational president. Donald Trump changed America. Now it’s concentration camps:
The U.S. Navy is preparing plans to construct sprawling detention centers for tens of thousands of immigrants on remote bases in California, Alabama and Arizona, escalating the military’s task in implementing President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy for people caught crossing the Southern border, according to a copy of a draft memo obtained by TIME.
The internal document, drafted for the Navy Secretary’s approval, signals how the military is anticipating its role in Trump’s immigration crackdown. The planning document indicates a potential growing military responsibility in an administration caught flat-footed in having to house waves of migrants awaiting civilian criminal proceedings.
Time magazine didn’t say how they got their hands on this document, but the Navy wouldn’t deny this was in the works. The administration had been caught flat-footed. The Navy was just trying to help out. That’s what the Navy does. And they had no comment on where the over three hundred million dollars to pay for this would come from. Trump can work that out with Congress. That’s not their business, and they have work to do:
The Navy memo outlines plans to build “temporary and austere” tent cities to house 25,000 migrants at abandoned airfields just outside the Florida panhandle near Mobile, Alabama, at Navy Outlying Field Wolf in Orange Beach, Alabama, and nearby Navy Outlying Field Silverhill.
The memo also proposes a camp for as many as 47,000 people at former Naval Weapons Station Concord, near San Francisco; and another facility that could house as many as 47,000 people at Camp Pendleton, the Marines’ largest training facility located along the Southern California coast. The planning memo proposes further study of housing an undetermined number of migrants at the Marine Corps Air Station near Yuma, Arizona.
The military has housed refuges before. This is a much bigger deal, but this too will be temporary – and austere, to please the boss – unless none of this is temporary, which seems likely. There seems to be some confusion:
Although the military has not yet been ordered to construct these new detention facilities, it is clear it bracing to join a policy challenge that is ricocheting throughout the whole of government. What began as a crackdown on immigrants crossing the border illegally has now spread to the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense and Health and Human Services.
All four departments have to agree, or Trump has to force them to agree, but meanwhile, something has to be done:
Trump on Wednesday ordered the Pentagon to work with the Department of Homeland Security to house the tens of thousands of immigrants currently being held awaiting criminal proceedings for crossing the U.S.-Mexican border illegally. Under the administration’s so-called “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, current facilities are at their breaking point and the immigration courts face deep backlogs. At the same time, children who previously had been separated from their parents are now going to be held with the adults, further straining the system.
So, everyone goes to camp, somewhere or other – the surfing is good at San Onofre, just north of Camp Pendleton – but late in the day on Friday, the New York Times reported that no one is agreeing on anything:
Tense arguments broke out at the White House over the past two days as top government officials clashed over how to carry out President Trump’s executive order on keeping together immigrant families at the Mexican border, according to four people familiar with the meetings.
The disputes started Thursday night. They continued Friday as Kevin K. McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, returned to the White House to question how his agency was supposed to detain parents and children together when the law requires that children not be held indefinitely in jail.
That law, the Flores decision, is clear enough – children not be held indefinitely in jail – it’s twenty days and that’s that – and thus nothing seems to be possible:
The bureaucratic battles threatened to undermine Mr. Trump as his administration tries to counter a political crisis driven by heartbreaking images and recordings of crying migrant children separated from their parents and sent off to shelters.
On Friday, the president was defiant. “We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.
All those phony stories of sadness and grief are “fake news” of course. All the kids are happy. All the parents are happy. Trump is not helping:
Inside the White House, the arguments echoed the chaos at American airports after Mr. Trump’s ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries. The ban – issued days after he took office – surprised Border Patrol agents and State Department consular officials.
Officials at the southwestern border are struggling to obey Mr. Trump’s demand to prosecute people who illegally enter the United States – ending what the president has reviled as a “catch and release” policy – while also following an executive order he issued Wednesday to keep migrant families together as they are processed in courts.
But as with the case of the travel ban, the reality of a vastly complicated bureaucratic system is colliding head-on with Mr. Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip use of executive power.
Shooting from the hip wasn’t working:
The president’s whiplash-inducing order caught several people by surprise. Just a day before Mr. Trump signed it, one person close to the president said that he told advisers that separating families at the border was the best deterrent to illegal immigration and that he said that “my people love it.”
Even on Wednesday, Mr. Trump repeatedly changed his mind about precisely what he wanted to do, and how, until shortly before he signed the order.
Chaos was inevitable:
Thursday night’s meeting was held in the White House Situation Room and lasted at least 90 minutes, according to four officials briefed on the discussion who described it on the condition of anonymity.
They said Customs and Border Protection officials forcefully argued that agents who are apprehending migrant families at the border cannot refer all of the adults for prosecution because the Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to process each case.
In particular, the border officials expressed concern about the number of prosecutors and judges needed to handle the proceedings, and the lack of space available to detain families while the cases go forward.
As a result, the officials from Customs and Border Protection told White House and Justice Department officials that they have had to issue fewer prosecution referrals of adults with children despite the president’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.
That didn’t go over well:
Justice Department officials shot back, maintaining that the department has made no changes to its hardline stance on illegal border crossings as it continues to receive referrals for prosecutions from Customs and Border Protection agents.
Government lawyers will “prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry,” Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said Thursday in a statement.
They’re a bit touchy about this:
The Justice Department has been combating reports about its ability or willingness to enact the zero-tolerance policy, denying that prosecutors have dismissed immigration violation cases in South Texas. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent 35 prosecutors to the southwestern border to help handle the surge in cases created by the zero-tolerance policy; the Defense Department deployed an additional 21 lawyers to handle immigration prosecutions.
Federal immigration courts faced a backlog of more than 700,000 cases in May, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, at Syracuse University. In some courts, the average wait for an immigration hearing was over 1,400 days; some hearings are being scheduled beyond 2021 before an available slot on the docket is found.
They should be touchy about this, but that doesn’t change this:
It is unclear when the other 2,300 children will be reunited with their families. They have been separated from their parents since the zero-tolerance policy was announced. The children have been placed in facilities run by the Health and Human Services Department, some of them thousands of miles from where their parents are being detained.
Administration officials said they have finalized a process to let parents know where their children are and to have regular communication with them after separation. Parents who are deported will be reunited with their children before being removed from the country, officials said.
They have finalized a process. They’ll work on trying to figure which kid belongs to which parent. No one had kept track of that in a good number of separations. Is this your kid? That’s the process.
It seems that process doesn’t matter:
For the past week, Mr. Trump has demanded changes in the United States’ immigration laws and encouraged Congress to act with urgency. But on Friday morning, he appeared to give up hope that the Republican-controlled Congress could succeed in passing an immigration bill this year, urging lawmakers in a tweet to stop “wasting their time.”
The president said a vote on immigration legislation should be postponed until after the midterm elections in November, when he expects Republicans to pick up more seats and create a stronger majority – a prediction that is far from guaranteed.
But House Republicans are moving forward as planned with efforts to pass immigration legislation, said Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the majority whip.
“I think the president’s expressing his frustration that Democrats don’t want to solve the problem while we do,” Mr. Scalise said. “We’re going to keep working to try to get it done.”
Why? No one knows, and there was this:
Debate over the family separation policy turned into a tense standoff in the House on Friday, when Representative Ted Lieu, Democrat of California, played a recording of the detained children wailing and crying, as the presiding officer, Representative Karen Handel, Republican of Georgia, tried to shut him down.
“The gentleman will suspend,” Ms. Handel demanded repeatedly, citing the chamber’s decorum rules. Mr. Lieu refused.
“Why are you trying to prevent the American people from listening to what it sounds like in a detention facility?” Mr. Lieu asked. The recording ran for several minutes before he stopped it and yielded.
This won’t get any easier, and Trump will make sure of that:
Later Friday, Mr. Trump invited family members of those killed by undocumented immigrants to deliver personal stories about the deaths of their loved ones…
Flanked by the so-called angel families, the president said the families had been “permanently separated,” a reference to the family separation issue.
He also used the opportunity to insist that crime among illegal immigrants is higher than the news media acknowledges. In fact, a 2015 study concludes that legal and illegal immigrants are “much less likely than natives to commit crimes.”
That must be “fake news” too, and Andrew Sullivan is fed up with all of it:
You could think of the last week as a solid victory for the Democrats and for basic human decency. An utterly indefensible and morally foul policy of separating children from their parents is over for now. Trump backed down amid a torrent of his usual lies and refusal to take responsibility for anything…
But it is emphatically not the end of this story, not simply because there are more than 2,000 children still apart from their families, with very little hope of ever finding their parents again, but because none of the underlying reasons for this atrocity in the first place have been addressed.
Sullivan sees things this way:
The United States has not allocated the resources, political and financial, to stem the wave of illegal immigrants into this country that is now rising again, or to enable genuine asylum cases to be adjudicated fairly and expeditiously. Our political system – incapacitated by tribalism – has been incapable of addressing the intensifying problem since the Bush administration. Obama was trapped by the same impasse as Trump now is, and detained families in camps…
Do we set up vast tent cities and camps to imprison families indefinitely, or do we simply let these families go free, and hope they show up for a future court date? Either way, we solve nothing fundamental and leave a huge incentive for those trying to enter the U.S. illegally to bring children with them when they do.
And then there’s the man at the top:
As in everything, Trump makes things worse. His rhetoric, his callousness, his wanton lies all make a compromise harder. It’s completely understandable that Democrats do not wish to let him off the hook in any way before November. But there’s a big conflict here if you actually want to end the suffering, or get at the real problem. If you do not want to jail kids with their parents indefinitely, or to maintain the incentive for illegal migrants to bring kids along for the harrowing ride, you need some sort of congressional action and soon. There’s something deeply wrong, it seems to me, with expressing the view that what the government is doing is barbaric and yet allowing the underlying cause of it to continue for political reasons. If that’s the case, then Trump is not the only one using kids as pawns.
If that’s the case, build the damned wall:
The Democrats need to accept that they lost the last presidential election for a reason, and that their opponent’s main campaign pledge was to tackle illegal immigration, with a wall at the southern border as the centerpiece. Completely resisting a legitimate agenda based on a clear campaign promise – well, it reminds me of the Republicans with Obamacare.
And there is clearly an adamant, persistent segment of the public that sees the crisis of illegal immigration as a vital one.
It might be best silence that segment of the public:
Finding the right balance between reason and compassion is essential if we are not going to further tear this country apart, or witness ever more humanitarian catastrophes, or see what is left of the West go under.
So give him his fucking wall. He won the election. He is owed this. It may never be completed; it may not work, as hoped. But it is now the only way to reassure a critical mass of Americans that mass immigration is under control, and the only way to make any progress under this president. And until the white working and middle classes are reassured, we will get nowhere.
There is a need to silence that segment of the public. Smug people are quiet people, and Trump will be happy, but Sullivan does say this:
Don’t give it to him for nothing, of course. It should come with a full path to citizenship for all DACA immigrants, as in the proposed deal in January that Trump first liked and then reneged on, under Stephen Miller’s toxic influence. But it should also go bigger: a legislative fix for Flores; massive new funding for detention facilities, humane family-friendly housing, and, above all, much more money for the immigration legal system, now completely overwhelmed by asylum cases. If Democrats can show they want to deal with the humanitarian problem as a whole, and are willing to compromise on the wall, they’ll be in a much stronger position going forward than in the recent past.
So build the damned wall:
If all this sounds like appeasing a bigot, I understand. But better to see it, I think, as a way to address the legitimate concerns, fears, and worries of a large number of Americans who feel like strangers in their own land, and whose emotional response to that has been to empower the white nationalist right. It’s also simply the moral thing to do to relieve real human misery on the borders.
Don’t give them this issue. Do the work to defuse it. And do it sooner rather than later.
That does make some sense, but George Will, the lifelong Republican who is no longer a Republican, has what he thinks is a better idea:
Amid the carnage of Republican misrule in Washington, there is this glimmer of good news: The family-shredding policy along the southern border, the most telegenic recent example of misrule, clarified something. Occurring less than 140 days before elections that can reshape Congress, the policy has given independents and temperate Republicans – these are probably expanding and contracting cohorts, respectively – fresh if redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote.
The principle: The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced.
He then makes a long and irritating learned argument that most Republicans should be voted out of office, now. Republicans should be the minority party again. He hates everything every Democrat stands for, but he’s sure there would be enough of those “temperate Republicans” left hanging around. They’d contain the “liberal” damage, and Trump would be contained. He can live with that.
He’s not alone:
Steve Schmidt turned heads when he quit the Republican Party this week. After all, he had helped run George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, managed John McCain’s in 2008 and helped get John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.
Yeah, he quit, but no one should have been surprised:
Since the tumultuous 2016 election, Schmidt has publicly blamed Trump for destabilizing the Middle East, likened his policies to those of the Nazi Party, blasted Trump for his attacks on Canada and criticized the idea that trade wars are “easy to win.” But it was Trump’s family separation policy that pushed him over the edge.
In tweets that went viral on Wednesday, Schmidt criticized the Trump Administration’s policy of separating parents and children caught crossing the border as “evil” and “immoral” and argued that Republican lawmakers who failed to repudiate the president were “feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders.”
He does hate those guys:
Schmidt is clear that his ire is not with Trump alone. Though he frequently disavowed Trump in the months leading up to and since his election, once comparing his administration to monkeys, Schmidt’s main concern since Trump took over the Oval Office has been the failure of Republican leaders to stand up to him.
“What destroyed the Republican Party isn’t Trump. It’s the obedience to Trump from servile leaders like McConnell and Ryan who could have put a check on him,” Schmidt said. “They have gotten their place in political history. They’ll be remembered as vile.”
This is the guy who told John McCain that Sarah Palin was a good idea, but now he knows better:
Most damning, he said, were the horrific images of parents being separated from their children at the border and the policies that led to their existence.
“We are looking at policies of profound cruelty that are reminiscent of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of the country,” Schmidt said, comparing the decision to jail and prosecute every illegal immigrant who crosses the border – which therefore separates families – to breaking up families being sold into slavery, marching Native Americans off their own land and harboring Japanese-Americans in internment camps in the 1940s.
“There is no redemption here,” he said of the future of the GOP.
And then he goes further than George Will:
While he said he will be voting for Democrats in the near future in order to curb Trump’s power, he said he won’t pledge his allegiance to the Democratic Party and will instead register as an independent.
“The Democratic Party is an institution I respect. It’s an institution that has created many great leaders. But I’m not particularly aligned with the Democratic Party’s policy agenda,” Schmidt said. However, he is “absolutely aligned with the party’s commitment and fidelity to democracy.”
He argued that Democrats are the only way right now to protect American democracy.
“I profoundly believe that the Democratic Party is the only vehicle we have to put a check on Donald Trump,” Schmidt said. “If there is not a repudiation of Trumpism delivered this November, we’re going to be living in a very different America than the one that everyone has been living in for the previous 240 years.”
That’s why, at least for now, the Democrats will have his vote.
“I’ll be as supportive as I can to Democratic candidates who are running to displace this corruptive Republican majority,” he said.
Democrats are the only way right now to protect American democracy? Donald Trump is a transformational president. But give him his wall. It’s time to move on.