This article was first published in Liberal America.
Schadenfreude. It’s a German term meaning enjoyment obtained through others’ misfortune.
With each passing week of Donald Trump’s presidency, I become more convinced schadenfreude is the new administration’s guiding principle.
Think about it. Trump targets a religion by praying on people’s fears and ignorance. He rolls back or otherwise eliminates environmental regulations protecting us from industrial poisoning and climate change. He seeks to eliminate public education by instituting a Hunger Games-style voucher system that pits the poor and middle class against the wealthy. He is doing something similar with the new Republican “replacement” for the Affordable Care Act. He is unraveling consumer protections, social safety nets, and civil rights.
Someone is enjoying watching us squirm.
But there’s something else now. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly confirms he is considering separating children and parents caught crossing our Southern border illegally under the guise of compassion for their safety.
“I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings people through Mexico to the United States.”
He has no qualms about extricating children from their parents, because, he says:
“We turn them over to [The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)] and they do a very, very good job of either putting them in foster care or linking them up with relatives in the United States.”
President Trump campaigned on a pledge to end “catch and release” immigration practices prohibiting the long-term detention of minors. Prolonged child detention is currently barred under a federal appeals court ruling, and families today caught at the border are released while they await immigration proceedings. Under the new measure, though, parents crossing the border with children would be detained while awaiting deportation; children would be placed in protective custody.
Asylum Division Chief John Lafferty said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has already located 20,000 beds for asylum seekers’ indefinite detention.
Andrew Free, an immigration lawyer in Nashville, Tenn. represents clients applying for asylum. He said:
“My worry is it’ll be permanent. Once those beds are in place they’ll never go away.”
Under the considered plan, DHS would break from the current policy of keeping families together; instead, it would leave mothers to choose between returning to their countries with their children or being separated from them while remaining in detention until their asylum claims are settled.
Schadenfreude. Just keep repeating it. Schadenfreude.