Thank you, Melania. Thank you, Ivanka. Thank you also, Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security. Thank you for engineering a reversal of the inhumane policy that tore 2,842 children away from their immigrant parents.
No thanks to President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly or shadowy prince of darkness Stephen Miller. They were responsible for the heartless decree that turned vulnerable children into pawns in the president’s immigration battle.
The separation decree was in the making for well over a year. John Kelly first publicly proposed it in May 2017. Stephen Miller took up the baton with a vengeance. He has taken over from Steve Bannon as the ultra-nationalist, alt-right, anti-immigrant chief White House strategist with the ear of the president.
Miller has been whispering away: Immigration, immigration, immigration. That is the key to victory in the mid-term elections.
For President Trump immigration means Congressional funding for his “big beautiful wall”, laws to allow the speedy deportation of illegal immigrants and sweeping changes to legal immigration. He is increasingly frustrated that Congress has refused to cave into his demands, especially as illegal immigration figures are climbing after a drop in 2017
In May the president launched a vicious and lengthy tirade against Homeland Security Chief Ms. Nielsen in front of the entire cabinet. She, he said, was to blame for the rising immigration figures. Ms. Nielsen sat there and took it on the chin, but according to sources, was close to quitting on the spot. She is reported to hate her job.
The much-maligned Attorney General Sessions saw an opportunity to weasel his way back into the presidential good books. On May 7th he told wannabe immigrants: “If you cross the border unlawfully then we will prosecute you…. If you are smuggling a child you then that child may be separated from you as required by law.”
For six weeks Ms. Nielsen, Ivanka, and Melania said nothing. Possibly because they thought that such a policy was so cruel and inhumane that it would never make it past the threat stage. They, were, of course, wrong, and on June 17th Ms. Nielsen broke administration ranks and tweeted. “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”
First Lady Melania then waded in with her statement: “We need to be a country that follows all laws but we also need to be a country that governs with a heart.” At the same time, first daughter Ivanka was whispering in her father’s other ear that he was making a big mistake.
The result was the presidential order reversing the attorney general’s separation order. It was significant that the two officials at the signing ceremony were Ms. Nielsen and Vice President Mike Pence. Conspicuous by their absence were Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions and John Kelly.
But the war is far from over. In fact, the pro-immigration lobby may have achieved only a pyrrhic victory.
Melania, Ivanka, the mainstream media and an international chorus of dissent may have forced a change on one part of Trump’s immigration strategy, but their opposition has moved the issue back to the top of the American political agenda—which is exactly where Trump wants it.
Donald Trump needs to keep his support base mobilised, activated and energised in order to retain control of Congress in the mid-term elections. Momentum at the moment is with the Democrats. The prize of a victory in November and the possible impeachment of Trump has driven them to win by-elections in Virginia and Pennsylvania.
A get-tough immigration policy is the number one issue for the Trump base. It is what put him in the White House. Fifty-five percent of Republicans supported his family separation policy. Ninety-one percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents opposed it. Trump recently warned the Democrats in a tweet that if the mid-terms are fought on the immigration issue they will lose. He may be right.
Tom Arms is editor of Lookaheadnews.com