Let’s accept President Donald Trump’s words at face value when he says, as he did Friday, “I hate the children being taken away.”
No, don’t be cute and imply that he hates the kids taken away. Forget the clumsy Trumpian construction.
Trump was trying to communicate that he hates the sight of feds having to take children from parents who try to bring them to the U.S. — away from proper ports of entry — without documentation, seeking asylum.
The question of the day is not about how he feels, but how he defends himself from the negative fallout of his own policy, and for how long it will stay in place.
The separation policy has been stated for weeks by Chief of Staff John Kelly and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
Under fire, Trump is using feints, denials and accusations to offset videos and photos from those temporary housing sites in Texas now drawing all the protest.
Trump, who focuses so much on how things look and how they sell, need not fear some left-wing backlash.
Rather, it is condemnations from the likes of Cardinal Tim Dolan and former first lady Laura Bush that suggest dissatisfaction in the American mainstream.
So Trump seems to be sending out a distress call to Congress. Whether he expects an answer is anyone’s guess.
Trump mendaciously blames laws and Democrats for the family separation policy.
But if he sees laws as the problem, everyone knows the way a president changes laws he doesn’t like is to enact legislation.
Supposedly, this can be done more easily when one party controls the White House and all of Congress. Has he sent them an immigration reform bill nobody knows about?
In practical terms, his condemnation of Democrats really adds up to an appeal to Republicans to reach an immigration deal that ends the bad optics and helps him save face.
Based on recent events, the chance of congressional help seems small.
Trump made a similar request to Congress on the matter of young people brought illegally to the U.S. as infants.
These are the people would have been exempted from deportation under Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Trump canceled DACA in September. But when he did so, he publicly asked Congress to give that group amnesty.
Then his border-wall issue got in the way, as did objections from GOP hard-liners. Nothing happened. No deal, no bill.
There are wide-ranging practical questions ahead if this separation policy stays in place.
If the parent is prosecuted and deported, the method of reuniting with the child has to be worked out.
Are the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security coordinating their efforts?
For how long are thousands of kids to be held? If it’s a long time, do they end up in foster care like minors who are citizens who are removed from parental custody?
Those questions will become especially key if Trump sticks with the separation policy long enough for it to work — that is, intimidate or deter more migrants from trying to cross into the U.S.
After all, that seems to be the point of this policy. Last month, it was reported that Trump was unhappy with Nielsen because arrest numbers were up at the border, suggesting a steady stream of people still trying to enter illegally.