The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had initially refused to give in to a Trump administration demand to use the pandemic as an excuse to block asylum-seekers at the southern border, the Associated Press reports. There was no valid public health reason to do so, a top expert at the agency said. But, it’s the noted white supremacist in charge of U.S. immigration policy who got the final word.
Stephen Miller had long been itching for a public health crisis as a pretext to implement more of his racist agenda. He got it in COVID-19—and he wasn’t about to let it go just because the CDC cited facts and figures to say no. Facing pressure from Miller, it was Mike Pence who then contacted CDC director Robert Redfield to demand he “use the agency’s special legal authority in a pandemic anyway,” the report said. “That was a Stephen Miller special,” a former Pence aide is quoted saying. “He was all over that.”
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The AP reports that on the call with Pence to pressure Redfield was unlawfully appointed acting Department of Homeland Security Sec. Chad Wolf, who apparently doesn’t have time to address white supremacist terror threats facing the nation but has plenty of time to block children fleeing violence from seeking asylum in the U.S. “They forced us,” one former official claimed to the AP. “It is either do it or get fired.”
But the right thing would have been to refuse to sign it. Redfield ignored not just his own agency in giving in to Pence and Miller’s political demand, but hundreds of experts who said that the public health order is not only not based in fact and will harm vulnerable people, but is also blatantly unlawful.
“Legal guidance issued by the U.N. Refugee Agency (‘UNHCR’) on asylum protections in the COVID-19 pandemic makes clear that the U.S. may not put in place measures that categorically deny people seeking protection an effective opportunity to ask for asylum,” hundreds of experts told him in May. “Expelling refugees to countries where their lives or freedom are at risk, or transferring them to countries where they cannot find effective refugee protection, violates U.S. obligations under the Refugee Convention, its Protocol and the Convention Against Torture.”
The U.S. has expelled nearly 150,000 people since March under the order, the AP reported, including nearly 9,000 children. Nine thousand children. “Many have been returned to dangerous and violent conditions in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,” and have reportedly been kicked out in such a rapid and reckless manner that some have been “virtually impossible” to find after being expelled. This has been a crime in every way possible.
Naturally, the administration is denying the AP’s report. “Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller, who is Stephen Miller’s wife, called the account of the phone call ‘false.’” Ah yes, the same Katie Miller who reportedly once admitted to journalist Jacob Soboroff that “DHS sent me to the border to see the separations myself to try to make me more compassionate, but it didn't work." Totally normal people in control of the federal government here, folks.
The Trump administration is currently being challenged in court on Miller’s order exploiting the pandemic, but every day this fight drags out is another day the administration continues to deny a child their right to seek protection here. And also remember Pence gave this order to expel children back to danger as he also falsely campaigns as a pro-life administration.
“Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project described the order as ‘a complete bypass of the entire asylum system and (the) system protecting unaccompanied children,’” the AP continued. “’That is what the Trump administration has been trying to do for four years and they finally saw a window,’ he added.”