Washington Watch: Hostages held for $25 billion ransom

Trump wants the money to build a border wall that might as well be called the “Keep America White” wall.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRIS ALUKA BERRY)
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions
US President Donald Trump is holding at least 2,000 children hostage and demanding a $25 billion ransom for their release.
Trump wants the money to build a border wall that might as well be called the “Keep America White” wall. It looks like he’s dropped his demand that Mexico pay the ransom since most of his young hostages are from other countries. He has said if he doesn’t get his money by the end of September, he will “close down the country.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited a Bible passage to justify his zero-tolerance policy regarding immigration and family separation. The same passage has long been used throughout his native South to justify slavery and segregation. It was also used by the Nazis to demand obedience to those in authority and by the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Nearly all the children taken from their parents are non-white and from Central America. Most came to American seeking asylum. They were fleeing violence from gangs like the notorious MS-13, which evoked a callous response from Sessions. Gang activities inside this country are intolerable, but not back home, where Sessions and Trump have declared fleeing such threats don’t qualify for asylum.
Jewish, Catholic and Baptist groups, as well as a number of religious leaders, have denounced the family separation policy.
Two weeks ago, the Orthodox Union gave Sessions its “religious liberty” award, despite spreading outrage over his immigration policy. Officials said they only privately expressed their misgiving but the OU slowly saw the light and joined 26 other Jewish groups – representing all four major American Jewish denominations – opposing the separation policy.
Rabbi Michael Adam Lutz of the Shir Tikvah Congregation in Minneapolis, questioned Sessions’ theological expertise and tweeted that the Bible “commands us to LOVE the immigrant,” not round up their children and put them in wire cages.
Sessions said it is an “exaggeration” to compare his family separation policies for Latinos to what the Nazis did to the Jews.
“In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country,” he said on Fox News, while he’s trying to keep the Latino immigrants from entering his country.
One would expect Israel to be the first and loudest to object, given the memory of what happened to the Jews under Nazi rule. But if the Netanyahu government has any misgivings, I haven’t heard about them. That might be because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tried his own zero-tolerance policy of rounding up illegal immigrants and incarcerating or deporting them. He had a plan to give several thousand immigrants $3,500 and a plane ticket to a country that would take them, but it was canceled in the wake of court challenges and protests by human rights groups. As in America, many of those threatened with deportation were “dreamers” who had been brought by their parents when they were young.
All four former US first ladies have condemned Trump’s policy. Laura Bush called it “cruel,” “immoral” and “eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War Two now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in US history.”
Even Melania Trump issued a statement saying she “hates to see” kids taken from their parents at the border. She is also a harsh critic of bullying. Do you think she’s trying to tell her husband something? 
Earlier this month at the G7 Conference in Montreal, Trump, showing his ignorance of history, lectured fellow leaders about Europe’s migration problems. Most startling, he told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “Shinzo, you don’t have this problem, but I can send you 25 million Mexicans and you’ll be out of office very soon.”
The White House repeatedly says and tweets that the Democrats are responsible for his administration’s inhumane family separation policy because they won’t support his harsh immigration policies. Trump keeps saying he “hates” the zero tolerance approach, but he insists it is the law and it was forced on him by the Democrats, who he says are refusing to work with him to change it. That’s a yuuuge whopper.
There is no such law. Never was. This policy was promulgated by Trump and could easily be removed with a stroke of his Sharpie. He doesn’t hate the policy, as he says, because it is his and he is convinced it plays well with his xenophobic base. He was elected as a virulently anti-immigration demagogue and he thinks that will bring Republicans victory in November’s elections. As for Democrats changing it, Republicans hold majorities in both the House and Senate, so they can vote in any policy they want. He just wants to make sure that anyone who dislikes his policy will blame the Democrats.
Democrats say they would like to work with Republicans on a bipartisan bill, but not one that funds Trump’s wall. They also want a real solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) problem, not a short-time patch. Moreover, the Republicans’ idea of bipartisanship is that Democrats should support GOP measures without troublesome amendments.
The issue is to come to the House floor this week when the GOP leadership has scheduled two immigration bills, one far-Right and the other extreme-Right.
One bill would sharply curtail legal immigration and give people covered by DACA only a three-year renewable work permit and no pathway to citizenship. The other would also reduce immigration, beef up enforcement and pay for the wall. It would end family separation and offer dreamers a slightly longer pathway to citizenship but not permanent residence.
Both have too many poison pills for most Democrats to swallow.
The child hostage strategy is believed to be the brainchild of senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, who has been pushing it since Trump’s inauguration. He has convinced Trump that, as the Washington Post reported, “because of its cruelty, separating children from their parents would provide a powerful deterrent” to would-be immigrants.
Miller, who is Jewish and an uber-nationalist protégé of former Trump strategic adviser Steve Bannon, called the hostage policy “a simple decision.” Several of his family members told the Forward that they strongly oppose what Miller is doing. An uncle said policies like his would have left “poor desperate ignorant immigrants” like his own Jewish family in Europe to go “up the crematoria chimneys.”
Trump has been called many things, but compassionate is not one of them. Look for him to keep trying to blame the Democrats for “forcing” him to take thousands of young hostages. The only hope is that enough Republicans on Capitol Hill will find their backbones. They have to decide whether they want to belong to the party of Lincoln or the cult of Trump.
Given their sycophantic actions of the past 18 months, don’t hold your breath.