Defending the deportation of sick children

How do you justify evil?

According to the AP and the Boston Globe, the Trump administration is ending a program that allowed families to stay in the United States while their children receive medical treatment for illnesses like cancer. (Boston is a center for specialized hospitals for children and cancer treatment so it deals with a number of families like this.)

The families have received letters telling them they will face deportation if they do not leave the country within 33 days. Deportation will certainly lead to suffering and death for some of these children.

Democratic politicians including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, and Ayanna Pressley have condemned the policy, which affects about 1000 people per year. A spokesperson for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which sent the letter, has confirmed that the policy is in place, although the Trump Administration has made no public statement. The spokesperson said the cases would now be handled by ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement), but ICE spokespeople had no comment, and the letters did not mention any appeal process.

What’s the best way to defend child cruelty?

As I read about this, I wondered how media sources defending Trump would report on this policy. Imagine for a moment that you work for Fox News or Breitbart and it is your job to write about this. Which strategy would you take?

  • Fake news. There is no such policy. These are isolated incidents. The media is exaggerating as usual.
  • It’s a dodge. Many of these families have easily treatable illnesses and are using this loophole to stay in the country and use our resources. Truly needful cases will certainly get to stay — but we need to purge those abusing this exception.
  • It’s exaggerated. It’s an administrative change. The media and the Democrats have turned it into a circus. It’s just different paperwork, not wholesale rejection of sick children.
  • They’re terrorists. We found a case where a family used this exception to get their uncle and his family in the country as well. The uncle has posted anti-American statements on social media and has friends who appear to be terrorists. We need a zero-tolerance policy for foreign invaders who would exploit their own families’ tragedies to hurt the US.
  • What about the real problem: the foreign invasion. These families are from Honduras, Guatemala, and Iran. They’re overrunning the country — some are murdering US citizens. We need a policy that blocks such invaders, not one with easily exploited exceptions. For each child who might suffer a minor inconvenience, there are Americans who will suffer more.
  • Say nothing. If we don’t report on this, no one will notice.

Before you read on, pick one of the above, or make up your own explanation. Once you’ve picked, I’ll explain what Trump-leaning news outlets actually did.

What Fox News and Breitbart actually said

Fox News hasn’t written about this story at all, as far as I can tell. (If you can find any Fox News content about this, please let me know.) So it has chosen “Say nothing.”

Breitbart addressed it obliquely in an article called “Joe Biden: ‘Cruel’ Republicans Will ‘Unplug these Kids.’

It includes the following passages:

But many millions of foreigners see huge incentives to use small legal loopholes to live in the United States. For example, Congress unanimously passed a law in 2008 to help foreign girls who were trafficked for prostitution into the United States. Since 2011, at least 200,000 migrants children and youths from Central America — including many MS-13 gang members — have used that law to get into and stay in the United States. . . .

So-called “health tourism” is a growing problem in the United Kingdom where sick people can enroll themselves in British hospitals for taxpayer-funded care once they get past customs officials.  . . . Health tourism is believed to cost British taxpayers between £200 million and £2 billion every year. . . .

In California, Democrats have pushed for rules allowing illegal migrants to receive free taxpayer healthcare. . . . The Democrat-dominated legislature of California has approved a plan to spend $213 billion in state and federal tax dollars on free healthcare for illegal immigrants.

So this appears to be a combination of “It’s a dodge” and “What about . . . ” (I fail to see how the situation in the UK and California apply, since no one is suggesting that public funds pay for these immigrants’ care.)

I’m frankly looking forward to the comments on today’s piece — in particular from one retired schoolteacher named Susan who always defends Trump’s policies. If you believe in Trump’s immigration policies, how do you feel about deporting the families of sick children? And how do you feel about what your news outlets are saying (or not saying) about it?

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  1. We all know if these were white children, this would not be happening, but you won’t see Fox news writing about that. Trump media allies always find a way to positively spin even to most inhumane policies. Reminds me of another PR group from the 1940s in Germany.

  2. Here are two theories to explain these misguided loyalists:

    1. To take a page from Covey, they begin with the end in mind. They want to justify his action, so they start with that and find a way. Critical thinking goes poof, not that it was ever there.
    2. Team sports.

  3. Agree with Heather’s and Phil’s comments. It’s all about playing to his base of white nationalists who he galvanizes with each new, unimaginably cruel policy targeted particularly to immigrants of color. It’s no longer a silent dog whistle, where the WH Admin says one thing but pretends to mean another. These new proposed policies (including one, also announced this week, proposing that children born of military personnel serving overseas are not citizens) have becoming blaring sirens. There is no way to spin this latest abject cruelty, as much as the WH tries to (sort of) deflect, and Fox, Brietbart and the like try to make it about….terrorism? or whatever else they try to concoct.

  4. I have a Tunisian Arab friend who recently needed knee surgery. This would be free if he lived and worked in his homeland. Because he is legally working in the US there is a cash payment charge. I lent him the money he needed for the procedure. It cost $3,500. The survey was successful and there were no complications.

    I have a cousin who needed a knee replacementZ the price at her first choice was $25,000 cash as it was out of network. So she went elsewhere. There were complications. She contracted a virulent MRSA infection. She required a total of 5 surgeries and was inpatient hospital or skilled nursing facility for nine months.

    It seems to me there is a logical contradiction between the constant denigration of the US healthcare vertical as to its high cost and low quality and the argument that citizens of other countries have no healthcare options outside the US.

    If you accept the premise that the rest of the world is more enlightened and compassionate than the US, then it seems to me it follows that deportees will enjoy the benefits of their national health systems which are the envy of progressives.

    If you don’t accept that premise, then you undercut the arguments used to advocate Medicare for All.

    When progressives criticize our system they at are really comparing it to other OECD countries, which are primarily privileged, socialist 1st world peers. The Tunisian system is a good example of the fact that this stereotype is just that. People of color on such countries, perhaps because they have followed suit with their former colonial governors, enjoy systems with comparable quality and better access than they do in the US. A more nuanced understanding of what awaits deportees would cast more light and generate less heat than stipulating that all deportees face agonizing deaths post-repatriation.

    1. I think these medical migrants are choosing the US because they have exotic problems for which the US doctors are the best.

      It’s no contradiction to say that knee replacement surgery is cheaper in Tunisia vs. cancer treatment better at Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston, which is perhaps the best in the world.

      Our health care “system” sucks. Some of our doctors and hospitals are excellent. Those are not mutually exclusive.

  5. Once upon a time, our country used to be a beacon on a hill.

    Now the beacon has become the eye of Sauron.

  6. “In June 1939, more than 900 passengers of the M.S. St. Louis were denied entry by immigration authorities in multiple countries in the lead-up to the Holocaust. It was a death sentence for over 250 Jewish refugees.

    After the Holocaust, the St. Louis’ survivors pushed for the remembrance of their ordeal. The United States and Canada changed its policy toward refugees in the wake of World War II, and began accepting more refugees than any other country in the world.”

    I guess DJT didn’t get the memo.