Keeping brown and black people out of the United States has been the Trump administration’s goal, but so has inflicting maximum cruelty in the process. For example, blocking asylum-seekers at the southern border wasn’t enough, the administration said. Let’s steal their children, too. Thousands were kidnapped, and the nation retched at the images, but officials such as Stephen Miller, the surly, racist creep behind these policies, reportedly loved it. Now they want more.
An internal email from a National Security Council official to border officials indicates that Miller and his allies want to shift the power of determining initial asylum claims from trained U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officers to Customs and Border Protection agents, with two goals in mind. One is that asylum-seekers will fail. “Miller has long seen asylum officers as soft and believes border agents would be tougher critics of asylum seekers,” NBC News reports.
“This proposal is highly concerning,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in May. “Having a CBP officer conduct a credible fear interview is like having an arresting police officer also sit as the judge,” it said, noting that these agents “have been documented using coercive tactics to convince individuals to agree to speedy deportations; providing false and misleading information on expedited removal forms; and physically and verbally abusing migrants in their custody.” Shit, you could show them your U.S. birth certificate and they’ll still keep you detained in immigration custody for weeks on end.
Francisco Erwin Galicia’s wrongful detention and tormenting by his own government brings up the second goal of Miller and company: to make asylum-seekers and their children and families suffer in the process, as plainly stated by the National Security Council official in the same email. “My mantra has persistently been presenting aliens”—not asylum-seekers, but “aliens”—“with multiple unsolvable dilemmas to impact their calculus for choosing to make the arduous journey to begin with.”
MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff pointed back to Adam Serwer’s 2018 piece in The Atlantic that noted that “Trump and his supporters find community by rejoicing in the suffering of those they hate and fear.” Serwer noted that border agents—the same ones Miller wants to have decide asylum claims—mocked children wailing after being torn from their parents. They’re still mocking them: Earlier this month, a 15-year-old migrant girl said a border agent laughed as he groped her during a supposed pat-down. The cruelty is the point.
“Trump’s only true skill is the con; his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty,” Serwer continued in 2018. “It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright.”