Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: “ ... with malice toward some”


With unemployment at 4 percent, the U.S. military is having a hard time meeting its recruitment goals. Even after raising signing bonuses and reducing standards, the U.S. Army was forced to announce in April that it was lowering its 2018 goal from 80,000 to 76,000 recruitments.

In making that announcement, Army Secretary Mark Esper acknowledged that without additional recruits, it will be difficult to ease the strain already put on current personnel by the “hamster wheel” of repeated, constant overseas deployments.

Yet even under these circumstances, the Army is also moving to oust legal immigrants from its ranks, according to the Associated Press. Under a program initiated in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, immigrants who took the military service oath were promised accelerated citizenship of the country they volunteered to defend; since then, almost 110,000 service members have become American citizens through that process, according to the Defense Department.

However, that program was canceled last fall, apparently as part of the Trump administration’s war on immigration and immigrants. Many immigrants who had already signed contracts and taken the oaths have since seen their reporting date delayed and now revoked altogether, the AP reports, with their dreams of U.S. citizenship revoked as well.

“There were so many tears in my eyes that my hands couldn’t move fast enough to wipe them away,” a 22-year-old Pakistani recruit said, recalling the moment he learned of his ouster via telephone. “I was devastated, because I love the U.S. and was so honored to be able to serve this great country.”

Meanwhile, in another front of the Trump war on immigrants, the administration has acknowledged that the number of children that it separated from their parents under its controversial anti-asylum program has grown from 2,000 to as many as 3,000. Because of poor or non-existent record-keeping, even that number is uncertain.

And with a court-ordered deadline of July 14 for the reunification of all children under age five, and by July 26 for all other children, it is highly unlikely to impossible for that deadline to be achieved. In an act not of gross indifference, but of apparent malice, the government failed to keep records that would allow child to be reunited with parent, and as a result is forced to attempt reunification through DNA testing.

In the words of U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the reunification:

“ ... there is no genuine dispute that the Government was not prepared to accommodate the mass influx of separated children. Measures were not in place to provide for communication between governmental agencies responsible for detaining parents and those responsible for housing children, or to provide for ready communication between separated parents and children. 

“There was no reunification plan in place, and families have been separated for months. Some parents were deported at separate times and from different locations than their children.

“Migrant families that lawfully entered the United States at a port of entry seeking asylum were separated. And families that were separated due to entering the United States illegally between ports of entry have not been reunited following the parent’s completion of criminal proceedings and return to immigration detention. ....

“The facts set forth before the Court portray reactive governance responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making. They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution.”

This is ugliness and cruelty for the sake of being ugly and cruel, perpetrated upon some of the most powerless, helpless human beings on the planet. It is cruelty and ugliness as policy, and we can no longer claim that such behavior is not America, because it so clearly is America under Trump.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.