Somehow, despite her having virtually no relevant experience, Ivanka Trump got and has maintained an advisory job in her dad’s White House. Her list of tangible accomplishments is short, but she still, time and time again, occupies a prominent position in the national conversation. Speaking to Axios this week, she talked down on the now concluded policy of separating undocumented immigrant families at the southern border — which, of course, does absolutely nothing to help the immigrants actually affected by the policy.
‘I am very vehemently against family separation… I think immigration is incredibly complex as a topic, illegal immigration is incredibly complicated… we are a country of laws… we have to be very careful about incentivizing behavior that puts children at risk of being trafficked, at risk of entering this country with coyotes or making an incredibly dangerous journey alone. These are not easy issues, these are incredibly difficult issues and like the rest of the country, I experience them in a very emotional way.’
The original family separations policy was instituted as part of “zero tolerance” for undocumented immigrants that left undocumented adults facing criminal proceedings without regard to any actual threat they posed — and children they were with in U.S. government custody.
Thousands of children were separated from their families under that policy, and some still remain separated, despite a court ordered deadline for family reunification. Children who have been held in U.S. government detention have been subjected to everything from psychotropic drugs administered without relevant consent to abuse.
What Ivanka’s criticism of the policy can translate to policy-wise is not immediately clear. Her words might as well be considered to be just that — words. There’s at least one instance where she’s been reported to have had an effect on her father’s policy decisions, pushing him in 2017 to go after the Syrian government following a chemical attack on Syrian civilians. She’s also, though, failed in her rhetorical endeavors, pushing him to stay in the Paris Climate Accord, for instance, to no avail.
At least one official who has an easier path to enacting a change in immigration policy relayed to Congress recently that they’d tried to stop family separations before they even started.
The U.S. Public Health Service’s coordinating official for family reunifications Commander Jonathan White told the Senate Judiciary Committee:
‘We raised a number of concerns in the program about any policy that would result in family separation, due to concerns we had about the best interests of the child… There is no question that separation of children from parents [could lead to] significant potential for traumatic injury to the child.’
Those concerns being raised did not stop the policy from being implemented, however.
We are a country of laws, indeed, as Ivanka noted, but laws can be changed. At one point recently, the Trump administration treated family separations like the law. Hiding behind that defense for maintaining a harshness towards undocumented immigrants just doesn’t work, because the law is what we make of it. She could have said, “Let’s make the nation’s laws more conducive for immigrants,” but instead, she just stuck to casting such a move as incentivizing dangerous behavior.
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