Terry H. Schwadron
May 27, 2020
In our own version of late night comedy’s “Meanwhile” segments, here are some of the more serious issues that the Trump administration has been actively pursuing while seeking to distract from the impact of 100,000 coronavirus deaths.
Sure, you might have thought that the federal government would be driving a public safety effort, but this one has been actively acting its way, and choosing policy choices that seek to ignore or seriously dampen any efforts to include the best how-to advice in re-opening a dead economy for fear that such a path leads to slowdowns and delays.
Instead, a White House with re-election frontmost in mind, sees threats and state government blackmail techniques to assure a clear way for planning a Republican National Convention for 100,000 revelers in close proximity and a fully open economic effort in the nation’s factories and businesses, regardless of virus contagion realities.
Yet, this government under Trump is doing yet other things that raise serious questions about who we are as a nation — without public discussion or congressional involvement or oversight or even understanding. It’s worth tracking some:
Bring on the Nuclear Tests
Apparently, the Trump administration has been discussing whether to conduct the first U.S. nuclear test explosion since 1992, certainly a move that would send ripples around the world.
Among other things, it would violate every international understanding that we have in place, would likely start a new round of nuclear arms building by Russia and China, which already have active programs, and would take away any arguments for a universal freeze on nukes by say, North Korea.
As reported in The Washington Post, a senior administration official and two former officials familiar with the deliberations, said that top officials from the various national security agencies met just last week to talk through the possibility of setting off low-yield nuclear weapons underground — with no decision. It was all meant in response to White House unproved, unacknowledged allegations that Russia and China are conducting nuclear tests. So far there is no confirmation of such tests from public sources, which usually hear about literal ground-busting events.
The pro argument seems to be that testing by the United States could prove useful from a negotiating standpoint as Washington seeks a trilateral deal to regulate the arsenals of the biggest nuclear powers. The anti’s argument was, well, that renewing nuclear tests is a nutty idea for anyone worried about world peace, current alignments, and, say, the environment at a time of Climate Disruption.
More than 184 nations have signed a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which still lacks the signature of the United States.
When it comes to lacking empathy for 100,000 U.S. dead, imagine the lack of caring required to launch a nuclear arms race.
Deporting the Children, Ignoring the Families
Since coronavirus broke out, the Trump administration has deported about 900 migrant children alone — in some cases, without notifying their families.
According to The New York Times, the Trumpists, led by anti-immigration architect Stephen Miller, have been swiftly deporting young migrants illegally crossing the Southern border, denying any of the usual opportunities to speak on their own behalf for mercy or asylum, and, now as a new practice, without reaching out to their families.
It is an important and unexpected shift in policy that has been masked by the virus outbreak — since avoidance of disease is providing the legal justification for the policy — that has been unfolding in recent weeks. Safeguards to handling of migrants by previous administrations have simply been tossed aside.
The Times told the story of 10-year-old Gerson Rodriguez who was being sent alone to raft across the Mexican side of the Rio Grande north towards his uncle in Houston. Sandra Rodríguez, the mother, expected that he might be caught by the Border Patrol, and held until the uncle could retrieve him. But Gerson disappeared entirely for six days, until the family heard he was back in Honduras where he had been returned to a crime-infested neighborhood, scared, confused and disoriented.
Historically, young migrants who showed up at the border without adult guardians were provided with shelter, education, medical care and a lengthy administrative process to consider keeping them in the United States. That was trashed under this policy for immediate deportation without notification to any family member or a determination that there was a safe return site.
In March and April, 915 young migrants were expelled shortly after reaching the American border, and 60 were shipped home from the interior of the country.
The Trump administration has extended the stepped-up border policy indefinitely and be reviewed every 30 days.
Cutting Farmworker Pay
The Trump administration is considering cutting the pay of guest visa farmworkers during the coronavirus pandemic to help the farm industry.
But California growers are unhappy about it. They say it won’t help them with their financial crisis, and will foster uncertainty for their essential employees.
Pay equity aside, this is a move that will depress the pay of domestic farm workers as well, and hardly helps bring back stability to an industry that Trump tariff policies and the coronavirus have cratered.
More than 257,000 people worked in the U.S. on an H-2A visa in 2017. These workers have been deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic by county, state and federal government regulations. In California, H-2A workers earn $14.77 an hour this year, or about $118.16 for an eight-hour day, though the rate varies a lot from state to state. For the same labor in Mexico, farmworkers earn 70 pesos an hour or under $25 a day.
According to an NPR report, the Department of Agriculture is working with the White House to cut pay and help farmer expenses. These, of course, are the same farmers who are supposed to receive a $16 billion bailout to keep operations going.
No one can explain how cutting farm worker pay would help solve food-supply-chain issues.
Good thing that the White House has its eye on the ball.