No country for squeamish bureaucrats

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The Trumpites get better and better, or worse and worse. It depends. Not too many people are indifferent about them. Take a look at this last run around the track, on the matter of child snatching. You cannot keep up with these people.

Attorney General Sessions quotes the Bible, Paul’s letter to the Romans no less. Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen says child snatching at the border is not our policy, period, because kidnapping occurs some distance away from the border. Press Secretary Sanders says she does not want to talk about that, so she doesn’t. President Trump blames the Democrats, especially those dreadful people in Congress who won’t build his wall. All of them blame parents who try to smuggle children across the border. Those parents are the real criminals.

“We must follow the rules”

All the officials agree as well that everything they do follows the rules, so no one has done anything wrong. I’d like to remind these people that the SS officers who loaded up the rail cars headed for one or another death camp followed the rule book. They kept good records, too, better than our Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR. The SS did not bother to defend itself against criticism, either. They just shot you.

Which makes you wonder a little bit why our top-level cabinet secretaries and other officials spend so much energy to defend their kidnapping practices. People with integrity and a clear consicience do not need to explain themselves. Cruel people without integrity or scruple shoot you. In any endeavor, rectitude speaks for itself, but ignominy turns to falsehood and fantasy to make excuses.

When the lights go on, rats with flag pins scurry for doorways, ratholes, and rafters. They make no apologies, but neither can they stand the light. Meantime, children sleep alone in the dark, in prisons the rats build for them.

Ninth Circle of Hell

Once you torture people, you have broken every barrier, every protection, like Humpty Dumpty. You no longer have any moral floor, below which you cannot go. You have reached the ninth circle of hell. Where would you place forcible removal of children from their parents? From the child’s point of view, I don’t see any difference between torture and forcible removal. Pain administered to the victim, psychological or otherwise, is comparable.

We’ve all learned a new acronym as our diligent reporters look into our government’s machinery to process vulnerable families who come to us for help. ORR stands for Office of Refugee Resettlement. ORR’s mission statement reads:

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) helps new populations maximize their potential in the United States by linking them to critical resources that assist them in becoming integrated members of American society.

One of the images in their home page slide show contains a drawing of children cut off from their parents:

UAC Artwork

ORR uses this drawing to promote its Unaccompanied Children’s program. This program predates their kidnapping program, but what the hell, we don’t care why they’re unaccompanied. If children come to us after border patrol kidnaps them, we’ll do our best to resettle them.

ORR has a long guide to explain how it handles children who are unaccompanied because we took them from their parents. Note the mildly sinister content that builds through the statement: we read about the best interests of the child, but ORR’s actual mission is to maintain children’s prisons, or detention centers, as I’m sure ORR prefers to call them:

Unaccompanied alien children apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration officials are transferred to the care and custody of ORR. ORR promptly places an unaccompanied child in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interests of the child, taking into consideration danger to self, danger to the community, and risk of flight. ORR takes into consideration the unique nature of each child’s situation and incorporates child welfare principles when making placement, clinical, case management, and release decisions that are in the best interest of the child.

You could only guess from this statement that the U. S. government is expanding its detention facilities as fast as it can, to imprison all the children it removes from their parents! Rumors circulate about tent cities, either planned or built, to store the children until ORR can figure out what to do with them. Yes, tent cities mean concentration camps: you concentrate people in one place in order to manage them better.

After removal, diligent reporters tell us, Department of Justice officials tell parents to call ORR, to find out where their children are. The officials even have a handout that contains ORR’s telephone number! Thus parents receive the most evil kind of bureaucratic run-around: they hope to be reunited with their children as soon as possible, whereas ORR probably does not know where the child is, and certainly will not arrange for reunification if it does know. You can imagine the opening questions for the phone interview: What is your son’s name, ma’am? Would you spell that for me, please? What was your son’s address before he came to this country? Does he have any identifying marks or features?

And so on. This whole process recalls Hannah Arendt’s famous article in The New Yorker in February 1963, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil”. Some people quarreled with her choice of subtitle, but indeed the phrase stuck. People who manage the ninth circle – the bureaucrats who process you when you arrive – do not have horns and a pointy tail. Neither do the people who oversee your existence after you arrive. All of it goes by the book. If you have a book, you know you won’t make a mistake. Everything is fine.

But everything is not fine. The administrative state creates horrific procedures and places, places where people suffer, and pretends that’s just how it has to be. Officials who justify these practices talk about them abstractly: that is how it has to be. If you accuse the bureacrats of kidnapping, they would not know what you mean. ‘All I do is process these forms, and answer the phone. I don’t even know who authored the policy.’ Of course you don’t. No one authored it. No one takes responsibility for a policy this evil. Read the mission statement. It tells us what a good job we do.