The Trump administration is privately having “considerable unease” amid mounting public furor over their policy of separating migrant parents from children at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a New York Times report Saturday.
Despite his tough rhetoric on immigration, NYT reports that President Donald Trump himself has “professed objections” to his own administration’s policy that he’s proceeded to falsely blame Democrats for.
Due to Trump’s misgivings, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has “clashed privately” with Trump over the policy, causing “furious lectures” from the President that have “pushed her to the brink of resignation.”
Additionally, Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller hasn’t backed down from the administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy.
“No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement,” Miller told NYT during an interview in his West Wing office this week. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”
Although the Trump administration doesn’t have an explicit policy stating that illegal border crossers must be separated from their children, the “zero tolerance policy” results in immigrants being taken into federal criminal custody where their children are considered unaccompanied alien minors and taken away.
Miller privately argued that a “zero tolerance” approach would be effective within a “severely limited arsenal of strategies” for stopping migrants from entering through the U.S.-Mexico border.
Miller’s central idea behind backing the hardline approach to immigration revolved around ending the practice of “catch and release” — immigrants being apprehended at the border and released into the interior of the U.S. to await the processing of their cases. Miller argued that the practice provided “perverse incentive” for migrants by ensuring that if they got to the border and claimed a “credible fear” of returning home, they would at least be given a chance to stay under asylum laws temporarily.
But given a lengthy backlog of asylum claims, the NYT notes that it would take years before migrants would appear before a judge to back up a “credible fear” claim and many would never return to do so.
When Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in October that gave legal status to undocumented immigrants raised in the U.S., Miller argued that any legislative package enforcing those protections should contain changes to close “loopholes encouraging illegal immigrants to come.”
Miller proved himself even more instrumental in Trump’s decision to enforce the “zero tolerance policy” when border-crossing numbers hit highs in April.
NYT notes that former President George W. Bush initiated the “zero tolerance” approach for illegal immigration that Trump’s policy is modeled after with the 2005-launched Operation Streamline program at the Texas border “that referred all unlawful entrants for criminal prosecution, imprisoning them and expediting assembly-line-style trials geared toward quickly deporting them.” However, exceptions were made for adults with minors, as well as children and people who were ill.
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Even when the Obama administration employed Operation Streamline at the height of the migration crisis, it did not treat first-time border crossers as “priorities for prosecution,” and administratively — instead of criminally — detained parents and children together in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.
Conversations about expanding Operation Streamline “with almost none of those limitations” started up not long after Trump took office. When White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly quieted down on addressing family separation, the Department of Homeland Security began testing the approach last summer in certain areas in Texas.
Read the full report at the New York Times here.