Many have been critical of the President’s erratic performance at last week’s G7 Summit in Biarritz, France: His back-and-forth on the trade war with China, his failure to appear at a meeting with his peers on climate change—and then lying about where he was, his fabricating a story about the relationship between the First Lady and North Korea’s Kim Jung-Un. Issues great and petty reveal a President losing touch with reality and the role that the President of the United States plays in shaping history.
Yet, one of the most troubling things about the current administration lies in what goes on behind the scenes—policy changes that have long-term implications for individuals and whole communities that are obscured by the relentless drumbeat of outrageous headlines that swirl around the President. A level of national fatigue allows our society to slip into a mindset whereby we accept it all as the “new normal.” In fact, there is nothing normal about the low standards set by this administration.
I’ve become accustomed to this drama—maybe at my own peril—and so none of this surprises me. But every so often, I learn something new that sends the depth of inhumanity at the core of White House policies to ever-deeper levels.
This week, The Boston Globe reported that severely ill immigrant children, who have been granted “medical deferred action” and allowed to stay in this country to receive treatment unavailable in their homeland will now lose this status and face deportation: “Severely ill immigrants, including children with cancer, cystic fibrosis, and other grave conditions, are facing deportation under a change in Trump administration policy that immigration advocates are calling cruel and inhumane.
“The policy change will affect at least a dozen children receiving treatment at Boston hospitals and potentially thousands of additional immigrants across the country, according to lawyers and advocates…Beginning last week, lawyers for some of these immigrants received boilerplate letters from Citizenship and Immigration Services informing them the agency’s field offices will no longer consider applications for renewal under the program. Exceptions will be made only for military families.
“The letters told families that if they did not leave the United States in 33 days, they would become undocumented and face deportation proceedings.”
In many of these cases, children and their families entered the US legally (i.e., on tourist or student visas) and became ill while they were here. In most cases, there is no treatment for their condition in their home countries. (You can see specific examples highlighted on Tuesday’s Rachel Maddow Show, here.)
Under the “medical deferred action” exception, parents of these chronically ill children were shielded from deportation, allowed to receive Medicaid and join the US workforce while their children were under treatment. These benefits would be removed under the change in policy and family members would be rendered “undocumented” and face deportation. For children with life-threatening conditions, returning to a home where treatment is unavailable, this is nothing short of a death sentence dressed up in administrative mumbo-jumbo.
An often-unstated reality about life under Donald Trump is the number of missed opportunities this administration has had to offer solace to those who are hurting. But this action goes beyond a missed opportunity. Like “deterrence” policies that indiscriminately separate families at our southern border, this action goes out of its way to evoke pain in the most vulnerable among us.