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Editorial: Barletta defends the indefensible
If there was anything worse than the Trump administration policy of separating young immigrant children from their families at the southern U.S. border, it was the pig-headed politicians who tried to justify and defend the practice.
Count Pennsylvania’s Rep. Lou Barletta as among the denizens of this particular pigsty.
“In America we have laws,” Barletta said in an interview on Pittsburgh television station KDKA on Friday. “Should you or I commit a criminal act this afternoon after we’re done with this interview, we’re going to be separated from our families.”
What a moronic statement.
Should Barletta commit a crime — and, now that he mentions it, an argument this asinine is practically criminal — he might be separated from his children, but only because he himself would be detained. His children wouldn’t abruptly dragged off, taken to a makeshift holding station in a converted big-box store and warehoused with hundreds of other children in hastily constructed chain-link cages.
Yes, representative, in America we have laws. And they focus on those accused of illegal activities, not their offspring.
But aren’t those immigrants approaching and crossing the U.S. border engaging in illegal activities? Often, no. A great many of those families are seeking asylum, having fled political violence or other life-threatening conditions in their home countries.
But whether asylum-seeking or border-crossing, until recently, these families were detained together while their cases were processed. In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions spelled out quite clearly that the Trump administration was to begin actively separating immigrant children from their parents.
Claims that agents are simply “following the law” were demonstrably false. There was no such requirement in the law. And this was proved to be so when, in an abrupt reversal, President Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon signed an executive order ending the process of separating children from families after they are detained crossing the U.S. border illegally.
Claims by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and others that the administration had no such policy were laughable. Americans have eyes.
Claims — repeated with increasing frustration by Trump — that Democrats were somehow responsible for this political clog dance on human rights were likewise false. Republicans own the House, the Senate, the White House and this issue.
As of Wednesday morning, the Trump administration had forcibly separated more than 2,300 children from their parents — including, as we learned Tuesday evening, toddlers and babies.
The stories — one child was ripped from its mother’s arms while breast-feeding — are abhorrent.
The cries — as captured by a secret recording and posted by ProPublica — are heart-rending.
The defenses — by Barletta and a diminishing circle of fellow Trump loyalists — are ridiculous.
Trump’s vaunted abilities to muddy the waters, sow confusion and misplace blame might be working with his base — one poll found some 55 percent of Republicans, to their shame, approved of the policy — but it failed elsewhere.
Two-thirds of Americans saw the practice for the heartless, mindless, pointless exercise in cruelty it was. Every living first lady including the incumbent spoke out against the policy — a first. Even many Republican office-holders — loathe as they are to oppose a vengeful and politically popular president — lined up in opposition.
And rightly so.
Barletta has already shown he won’t let a little thing like the Constitution get in his way when targeting illegal immigration, so his support should not be surprising.
But for a politician aspiring to the U.S. Senate, the willingness to back a program that pries young children from their families is disappointing, dismaying and, ultimately, disqualifying.