Using Families for Immigration Gain

Terry Schwadron
4 min readDec 27, 2017


Terry H. Schwadron

Dec. 27, 2017

Frankly, it made me nauseated to reading a recent news report about the Trump administration’s next move to halt illegal immigration. The policy itself is heartless and terrible. Worsing the reaction is my own attempt to square the policy with the administration’s obsequious genuflection to the religious right over its concern for “family.”

Simply put, in a renewed attempt to curb illegal border crossings, the Department of Homeland Security is considering targeting families, intentionally separating children, to serve as a kind of bait for parents. The government wants to clap children in homeless shelters while they move to deport families who seek to reclaim their children.

This administration, which is breaking its arms patting itself on the back for its caring about the unborn, about preserving family values and the rest, is building its new anti-immigrant push by breaking families apart.

Just last week, a federal judge intervened to block government action stopping an abortion for an undocumented teenage immigrant. At issue, of course, was a federally paid abortion which the government opposes, despite the circumstances of the pregnancy.

The Post quoted unnamed officials as saying the new measures are needed to halt a renewed surge of Central American families and unaccompanied minors coming across the Mexican border. The proposals apparently have yet to be disclosed publicly (which is why the officials are not named), would also crack down on migrants living in the United States illegally who send for their children.

The Post said that would depend on data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services to target parents for deportation after they attempt to regain custody of their children from government shelters.

It seems that previously reported sharp declines in border crossings after Donald Trump became president have started to reverse. In November, American border agents stopped 7,018 families, or “family units,” along the border with Mexico, a 45 percent increase over October. The number “unaccompanied alien children,” or UAC, was up 26 percent month to month. Children’s shelters operated by Health and Human Services department are at or near maximum capacity, that agency said. Overall, the number of migrants detained last month along the Mexico border, 39,006, was the highest monthly total since Trump became president.

Now remember, Trump has crowed about illegal immigration dropping since last November’s election.

The policy must be approved by the new DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, former deputy to John Kelly. Tyler Houlton, a Homeland spokesman, said the proposal was being formulated by career officials and that preliminary reviews of the policy have been cleared for implementation soon. “The administration is committed to using all legal tools at its disposal to secure our nation’s borders, and as a result we are continuing to review additional policy options,” Houlton said.

Last March, former Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly, now White House chief of staff, did not move forward with the plan. He anticipated backlash and illegal immigration had dropped.

The Post said that Trump administration officials described the measures as unpalatable but necessarily tough policy options to discourage Central American families from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras trying to flee gang violence from embarking on the long, dangerous journey to the border — or hiring smugglers to bring their children north. “People aren’t going to stop coming unless there are consequences to illegal entry,” one DHS official told the Post.

Politically, the alignment of anti-immigration thinking lines up well with white evangelicals. A recent Public Religion Research Institute-Brookings survey shows that evangelicals are unnerved by demographic and cultural changes. Nearly two-thirds in a survey last ear said they were “bothered” when they encountered immigrants who speak little English, that discrimination against whites has become a big problem, that that the country has changed for the worse since the 1950s.

In a related report, a Justice Department memo issued this week that was obtained by Reuters advises immigration judges to question unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant children as well as directs judges to try such cases fairly despite “sympathetic allegations” that such cases may include. The memo issued Dec. 20 by the Executive Office for Immigration Review requests judges be skeptical of minors who it says may be abusing the system.

So, the Trump administration has cover in saying that migrants and smugglers shamelessly exploit Americans’ compassion, entering the United States illegally and gaming the asylum process. There are now more than 600,000 asylum requests pending in U.S. immigration courts. The government says asylum seekers are typically issued work permits while they wait, and that often when rejected appeals are exhausted, they ignore court orders to leave the United States, choosing to remain in the country illegally.

The thinking quite simply is that fewer parents would come if they knew they would be putting their children at risk.

So, which family values do we care about? The kind that say we need to be saving the unborn or the kind that say that using kids to lure migrant parents out of hiding is perfectly ok?

How about we really Make America Great by avoiding such policies.




Terry Schwadron

Journalist, musician, community volunteer