The Trump administration is not only continuing the supposedly temporary Stephen Miller-led public health order that has now resulted in the deportation of more than 900 migrant children since March—it’s extending the policy indefinitely. “The order mentions that the circumstances resulting from the coronavirus pandemic would be reviewed every 30 days, but gives no other details on what changes might result in the administration lifting the order,” Roll Call’s Tanvi Misra reports.
But as we and advocates have warned, there’s little chance of these restrictions going away because the chance to quickly deny kids a chance at asylum and then deport them back to the danger they fled from is exactly what Miller and the administration have been salivating over. As the American Civil Liberties Union’s Andrea Flores told Mother Jones: “The president is hellbent on exploiting a public health crisis to achieve his long-held goal of ending asylum at the border.”
Immigrant rights advocates and legal experts immediately condemned the indefinite extension, and called on federal legislators to take swift action to demand answers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert R. Redfield, who is allowing his agency to prioritize the will of a racist administration over facts and reality.
In response to Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas saying he would “absolutely” seek to block the administration from continuing this radical policy, immigration attorney R. Andrew Free tweeted that he “should join forces” with Rep. Lucille Royball-Allard of California “to defund any activities ICE wants to conduct until ICE and the CDC put Dr. Redfield under oath and allow him to answer questions about about this patently absurd order, which public health officials say is bunk.”
Following Castro retweeting that message, Free asked: “Shouldn’t Dr. Redfield have to explain under oath why the government gets to invoke this authority to shut down virtually all legal immigration, at the same time as the WH is trumpeting its success in containing COVID-19?”
Other advocates agreed. “The mixed messaging is dizzying,” Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service President Krish O’Mara Vignarajah said, according to Roll Call. “In the same breath that the administration tells Americans that our country is safe enough to begin re-opening, it cuts off every conceivable path to protection for the most vulnerable asylum seekers.”
Leading health experts have continued to criticize Redfield for the order unilaterally obliterating legal protections for migrant children, writing in one recent letter: “The nation’s public health laws should not be used as a pretext for overriding humanitarian laws and treaties that provide life-saving protections to refugees seeking asylum and unaccompanied children.”
The number of children who have been quickly deported by the administration under the public health order has continued to horrifically climb. The New York Times reports that 915 children have been kicked out since March, “including some who had asylum appeals pending in the court system. Some of the young people have been flown back to Central America, while others have been pushed back into Mexico, where thousands of migrants are living in filthy tent camps and overrun shelters.”
Some, The Time said, “have been deported within hours of setting foot on American soil. Others have been rousted from their beds in the middle of the night in U.S. government shelters and put on planes out of the country without any notification to their families.” This has nothing to do with public safety; it has everything to do with advancing the agenda of a white supremacist administration.