New York: US President Donald Trump is not going to back down on his hardline immigration talk anytime soon although the clock is ticking for the US administration after a federal judge ordered the thousands of migrant children and parents who were forcibly separated at the Mexican border reunited within 30 days, sooner for youngsters under 5.
While immigration pundits are still debating whether this is maybe the first time that Trump has dialled back a major policy move when he ordered a stop on family separation, the fact is that the big elections are coming up in 2018 and 2020.
The ideologues in the White House - Stephen Miller in particular - who run Trump's immigration agenda have been restrictionist for many years now and they are probably hoping that America secretly agrees with their grand plan. Trump seems at least sympathetic if not more strongly about their cause.
Amid an international outcry, Trump last week issued an executive order to stop the separation of families and said parents and children will instead be detained together.
Yet, those decisions seem almost like fringe items on Trump's bigger agenda.
Trump's immigration talk is less about immigration policy and taps much more into tribal urges, race and cultural identity under the long arc of "broken immigration policy" and "open borders".
No matter what the chaos at the border, Trump has already delivered the visuals that will rile up his base - people who are not so excited about say, Hispanics or asylum seekers in their neighbourhoods.
For Trump, immigration has become the convenient proxy word for racial discussion without calling it that. Clearly, a judge here and there stopping family separation at the border doesn't mean the file is closed for Trump the campaigner. The US president and his A team on immigration will continue to run on race that's wrapped up in the language of immigration policy. That's what delivered the White House in 2016 and Trump won't let his grip loosen at this stage.
White House faces hard deadline
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a hard deadline ending Trump's policy of separating families at the border. "This situation has reached a crisis level," Sabraw wrote.
The ruling poses a host of logistical problems for the administration, and it was unclear how it would meet the deadline.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which is in charge of the children, referred questions to the Justice Department.
The Justice Department said the ruling makes it "even more imperative that Congress finally act to give federal law enforcement the ability to simultaneously enforce the law and keep families together."
"Without this action by Congress, lawlessness at the border will continue," the department said.
Sabraw, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, said children under 5 must reunited with their parents within 14 days.
He also issued a nationwide injunction against further family separations, unless the parent is deemed unfit or doesn't want to be with the child, and ordered the government to provide phone contact between parents and their children within 10 days.
The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued in March on behalf of a 7-year-old girl who was separated from her Congolese mother and a 14-year-old boy who was taken from his Brazilian mother.
"Tears will be flowing in detention centers across the country when the families learn they will be reunited," said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.
More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents in recent weeks and placed in government-contracted shelters — hundreds of miles away, in some cases — under a "zero tolerance" policy toward families caught illegally entering the U.S. Many are from drug- and violence-wracked Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
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Updated Date: Jun 27, 2018 21:57:20 IST