We have our issues with immigration in this country and the recent Windrush scandal, utterly indefensible as it was, was proof of that. Except of course, once the depths of that scandal were revealed, nobody defended it. They sought for a time to shift the blame on to officials admittedly and a minister had to resign for that. Since then the Government, not without some continued difficulties, has got a grip on the matter, apologised and urgently sought to address it. The scandal came about as unforeseen corollary of the policy to be tough on illegal immigration. It caught up people who were not here illegally but who could not prove it. It was a classic case of what you might call bureaucratic blindness.
Contrast that with what is currently happening in America right now when, as a matter of policy, one that the Attorney General has even sought to justify with quotes from scripture, children are being separated from their parents and put into child camps. These are families who are applying for asylum in America being forcibly separated as a kind of zero tolerance approach so that Donald Trump can look tough on the issue that so galvanises his base. Now though, as the optics of this have proven to be so disastrous, Trump has gone into his default mode and sought to lie about it and blame the Democrats and a law they supposedly passed.
To be clear: no such law exists. Trump has reversed the policy of his administration and enacted a new system for dealing with asylum seeking families at the border. He has done this to exert maximum pressure on the immigrants themselves and as a bargaining chip with Democrats in Congress as he tries to get funding for his asinine border wall and to get other immigration measures passed. This is a policy brought in this year, in just the last few weeks and so this is a measure of which Trump and the Republicans who control Congress and the administration, have full ownership. Trump has the right to do what he has done under existing laws. But he and only he has chosen to administer immigration in this way, this zero tolerance way. No other president of either party in the last 20 years has taken this approach. This is a Trump policy. Typically he cannot even be honest about his own signature policy, claiming that he hates it. Yet during the campaign and subsequently he boasted about how tough he was going to be on borders and immigration and this change was no doubt brought in with the November midterm elections in mind. Now he is pretending it has nothing to do with him because of the disgust or at least concern it has engendered across the political spectrum.
Over a six week period since Trump brought this measure in, 2000 children have been forcibly removed from their parents. It has been a disastrous policy that is typical of Trump's tin-eared, tunnel vision approach to all politics.
Now to be completely fair to Trump this is a response to a crisis that is happening on US borders. It is a crisis akin to that we have seen in Europe, in Italy, Greece, across the Mediterranean and even on a lesser scale in Calais. People traffickers try to make money out of human misery and create huge administrative problems for those areas on the border - countries in Europe or southern States in the United States. Trump and his Attorney General decided as a matter of policy to address this by sending out an uncompromising message of zero tolerance. His administration is prosecuting immigrants and treating them as criminals for crossing the US border, a infringement that was previously, under other administrations, both Democrat and Republican, treated as a misdemeanour. The corollary of that is that children must be separated from their parents since those parents are in prison.
The problem with such policies, as we found out here in the UK just a few weeks ago, is that they often have unfortunate consequences. Separating children from their families is actually an administrative measure put in place to address these issues and issues that have arisen as children cannot be held in custody while their asylum applications are considered and their parents face prosecution. But only under Trump has it been enacted in such a way as to forcibly remove children, some as young as two, from their families. That is a disaster on so many levels. That is not being tough, it is being wantonly cruel and irresponsible.
It is typical of Trump however that, instead of retreating graciously and admitting a mistake, he doubles down and blames it on someone else. Instead of looking again at the issue or simply reversing the policy under pressure he lies and makes insinuations about the intent of others. There is nothing wrong with wanting to cut immigration provided that it is done in a fair and transparent way.
Such has been the outcry over this that there probably will be a quiet reversal of the policy, or at least a softening of it. Trump likes to talk loudly about issues before retreating without acknowledging that that is what he is doing. Politicians in general see admitting being wrong or mistaken as a sign of weakness, when most of us see making mistakes as a fact of life. Trump lacks the maturity for such an outlook. Worse he lacks the ability to think things through in advance, to plan strategically and to have a clear policy on anything. This is just an issue of immigration and so he sees it in simplistic terms. This after all is the man who says it could all be solved by building a wall.
Immigration policy is a difficult issue, possibly an intractable one. But it is made worse by posturing politicians who think in terms of headlines and looking tough rather than by trying to find ways to genuinely address problems that cannot be magicked away. Just as on every other issue that crosses his desk, Trump cannot be bothered to do the work to understand and instinctively lies whenever the consequences of his own bovine policies blow up in his face.
Now on the one hand this may be something of concern but only tangential concern for those of us who are not being directly affected by Trump as our head of state and government. His serial inability to fully appreciate the nuances of policy and to create strategies to manage issues he has rightly identified are at best problematic and potentially dangerous for the whole world. This applies not only to the more obvious examples of his bone-headedness such as his trade war against the wrong enemies, his reality television international summit, his bromance with Putin that may or may not be so stunningly corrupt that even Republicans might condemn it. This president with the reverse Midas touch is turning to base metal or worse everything he touches, fatally undermining American standing in the world and may even begin the dismantlement of Nato. The man who so wants a Nobel Peace Prize will end up making the world more unstable and dangerous than at any time since the 1950s or 60s, but if the prize committee had by then awarded him the bauble he craves it's not clear that he would care anymore.
And this applies to America too. Trump has taken his approach to ethics, the law, media relations and basic decency and applied them to American public life. In so doing he has sullied the nation and divided and polarised it to the point that it may soon cease to be a properly functioning democratic state. Imagine what would happen if the process of impeachment were to begin. Imagine what would happen if the gun worshipping red necks who worship the man and who genuinely believe that there is a fake news conspiracy against their hero were to see the man they elected removed from power. A country that awash in guns would not be a pretty place if a new civil war were to break out.
A world in which America went awol would become a lawless place, a dangerous place. Even if this picture is a little too bleak, Trump's trade war and war on the international framework of the last 70 years that has kept the peace and made the western world he leads rich and powerful would break down and impoverish us all. Putin's clear ambition is to play divide and rule as is China's. North Korea has spotted in the orange half wit an idea opportunity to reset the game to year zero once again to gain itself some sanctions relief, maybe some aid or investment, to smile nicely for a while and cheat at the same time. It is a game plan that has always worked nicely for them in the past and is one the Russians and Chinese follow too, not to mention various other unpleasant regimes around the world who cannot believe their luck that mighty America has sunk so low as to have elected and now to support a craven ignoramus as its leader and a leader that the checks and balances of the mighty American constitution are not checking or balancing.
The children being taken into custody by the Trumpian state are a symptom of something terrible coming if we stand by and allow it to happen. The egregious lies of Trump and his enablers have gone unchallenged too long now. Last week was a terrible week in US politics. There are many more still to come unless people stand up and are counted and say no more.