Without “Judges or Court Cases”

That is how the genius in the White House wants to get out of the firestorm tearing infants and children out of their parents’ arms has caused. It’s not going to work. However, the suggestion does open a window on the dimensions of a much larger problem that conservatives are entirely unequipped to address.

Let’s consider a few facts first.

Every year there are about 470,000 native born U.S. children in subsidized foster care as a result of involuntary placement. That is, the children are not delivered by parents to be cared for by someone else. Rather, the children are taken.

Most of the children do not spend a whole year in foster care. About a quarter million turn-over is the norm.

Given those numbers, two, three or even four thousand migrant Central American children taken from parents and shipped off to eleemosynary organizations are but a drop in the bucket. What has occasioned the outrage is the abandonment of due process. Because children are considered the property of their parents, taking them away has to be justified. Not only are there required court hearings, but the parents are entitled to free legal representation, if they cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

This failure to follow due process caused consternation. And then whoever came up with the idea of putting children in warehouses in chainlink cages aggravated what was already a poor management decision. (I am not going to make the argument that detaining migrants and, indeed, the whole immigration regime is un-Constitutional because that would make any further discussion moot and I do have more to say).

Going back to the numbers, the taking of a few thousand children was not going to set the country on edge. Indeed, the million or so families a year that have to contend with intrusive social workers, explain why their children are malnourished or haven’t had their required medical check ups and show up at school with unexplained bruises, a population for whom the promise of shaking up the bureaucracy sounded like maybe they’d get some relief, might even have experienced a bit of schadenfreude that these foreign intruders were getting what they deserved.

“Enough with the resettlement of refugees and English as a second language classes,” they might have thought and then their would-be hero caved and all the judicial determinations will have to be complied with while medecines get more expensive, SNAP coupons are withdrawn and the migrants get free lawyers, new sneakers, space blankets and new togs. The Dude promised more than he had any intention to deliver and now that is hitting home.

The rationale for keeping southern migrants out so they would not take impoverished Americans’jobs was always bogus, but it did deliver the message that somebody cared. And being exclusive, shutting the migrants out, has a certain ego-boosting appeal. In our community, alongside the ubiquitous chain link fences, there’s many a decrepit shack protected by NO TRESPASSING and KEEP OUT signs. Property rights, not property, is all some people have got.

And that is why it is fair to conclude that the Dude had a very bad week and, as somebody on Capitol Hill said, “the spell has been broken.” But, it was also a really bad week for Congress because there is now no question the migrant mess flows down from the Hill. While the executive is tasked with monitoring who comes in and out so adequate services can be delivered, excluding migrants because the white reproductive rate has slowed is not a rationale for providing stipends to foster care providers while natural parents are deprived. That is just plain mean.

Worse, Richard Nixon in 1972 agreed with George McGovern that a guaranteed income for families made sense. And then came Watergate and the financiers had a perfect excuse never to have such a radical proposal considered again. Meanwhile, Canada has continued to issue a monthly stipend for each minor child since just after World War II. Funny how that has not bankrupted the country.