Members Only | July 2, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Trump Set to Betray Military Families

If he gets what he wants, the president will undermine the ideals of citizenship.

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If there’s one thing I hope sticks in the minds of my readers, it’s that Donald Trump’s efforts to strengthen our nation’s border are actually efforts to weaken our nation.

I know, right? Sounds backward! It’s not.

The president is cracking down on illegal and legal immigration. His administration is violating US asylum law. It’s defying the Constitution to build a wall. It’s confiscating children in the mistaken belief that doing so will deter future immigrants. It’s creating encampments to house thousands of these children in grotesque conditions.

Meanwhile, those efforts are tearing apart not only immigrant families but (potentially) citizens’ families, too. Indeed, if the president gets his way, he will have undermined the very ideal of American citizenship. All this comes from paying too much attention to the nation’s borders and not enough attention to the nation.

The administration is reviewing rules that shield from deportation families of military personnel.

How is this happening? In addition to the above is recent news, via McClatchey, that the administration is reviewing established rules that shield from deportation the spouses and children of military personnel. Even though they serve this country, these men and women may not be able to trust this country to protect their loved ones. 

Called “parole in place,” the program recognized “the important sacrifices made by U.S. armed forces members, veterans, enlistees and their families. To support these individuals, we provide discretionary options such as parole in place or deferred action on a case-by-case basis,” according to Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website. 

The program was mostly dormant until 2010 when military officials and members of Congress insisted President Barack Obama revive it. Then-Indiana Congressman Mike Pence was among those urging the US Department of Homeland Security to increase access. Pence is now the vice president, of course. He’s standing by while his boss transforms patriotism into a club exclusive to members loyal to the president. 

The following can’t be overstated.

First, imagine the dread and horror of being overseas while Immigration and Customs Enforcement comes for your spouse and children. Second, deporting a serviceperson’s family is a superlative act of betrayal. Third, demanding that serviceperson’s loyalty in return is a superlative act of cruelty. The president says that “strong borders” are what the nation need to be strong. It’s the reverse. The Democrats should stop helping.

If the party’s presidential candidates are any indication, they are. Nearly all of them favor, in one form another, the decriminalization of border crossing. The offense is a misdemeanor the first time, a felony if the federal law is broken multiple times. Some of the Democrats are proposing that it be reduced to a civil infraction. That, I think, would go a long way toward what I’ve called demilitarizing the border. That would go a long way toward de-emphasizing the nation’s border, re-emphasizing the nation. 

Reemphasizing the nation must include a means by which people can earn the blessings of citizenship. Since the founding, one way was service. Indeed, the foundation to the civil rights movement, the moral justification for giving black Americans full and equal rights to the franchise, was service in World War II. Black men helped defeat fascism abroad. It was immoral for them to face fascism at home.

And now, the Trump administration, in reconsidering the government’s commitment to military personnel, is saying without saying that honor, duty and sacrifice mean diddly if the government does not like who or what your family is. It’s difficult to imagine a deeper betrayal of one’s sacrifice and of anyone who died for this country. It’s difficult to imagine a more immoral view of what it means to be an American.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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