Trump's Moral Nadir

Donald Trump is slowly but surely exhausting the American public, nearly everyone, including the trumpkins among us, are tiring of the constant barrage of outrages that emanate from the “tweeter-in-chief.” His verbal and legal assaults on minorities, his disregard for norms and values, his shredding of international relations, his disregard for civility are overwhelming even the news addicted.

That exhaustion leads gradually to acquiescence, his aberrant behavior becomes normalized. Scientists have studied how mice react to negative stimuli for decades---they can now look at millions of Americans and watch how we become inured to Trump’s outrages. After nearly a thousand days of his administration and a tsunami of bizarre tweets, it seems that we can’t be shocked any more.

Yet this week brings a shocker, decisions so reprehensible, so lacking in basic human decency or reason that even the trumpiest of the trumpkins must be troubled.

The Boston Globe reports,

Step by malicious step, the Trump administration is turning the American immigration system into an apparatus of appalling, intentional cruelty. [Emphasis added]

The latest case in point is a relatively small program known as “medical deferred action,” in which immigrants without legal status who are suffering from serious medical conditions are granted a reprieve from deportation so that they can have access to much-needed medical treatment in the United States.

Trump halted the program this month, threatening to deport these patients, including children with leukemia, muscular dystrophy, or cystic fibrosis. The program’s termination means suspending or interrupting medical care, which in some instances is virtually a death sentence.

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The new policy is a significant departure from longstanding practice, legal experts said. “Deferred action” came into prominence when President Obama applied it in 2014 to the so-called dreamers, a special class of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. But for decades, federal authorities have used it as a form of prosecutorial discretion for humanitarian purposes. It’s also a vital mechanism for practical reasons — the government simply does not have the resources nor the time to deport every single unauthorized immigrant.

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The outrages now come with such regularity that each tends to distract from the last. But it’s important to protest not just these changes, but also their overriding intent: to remove all vestiges of compassion from the immigration system and make life as miserable as possible for immigrant families. Can this administration sink any lower than threatening to deport kids with cancer?

The New York Times today offers the example of a young woman in San Francisco with an incurable disease (Mucoplysaccharidosis VI) who was brought here under the “medical deferred action” program at 7 years old at the request of doctors at the UC Medical School in San Francisco to help research on her rare genetic disease. The study--of which she was a crucial part-- has extended life expectancy for those afflicted by 50%, to thirty years. According to the UC researchers it could not have taken place without her participation over the past 17 years.

Now she is being told, after having lived here for most of her life and graduating summa cum laude from Cal State University, that she and her family have 33 days to leave and return to a country where she cannot get her weekly infusion therapy and will likely die.

The new Trump policy was not announced in the Federal Register, there was no period for public comment on its ramifications. It was sprung, without warning, via letter to young people who have been admitted to this country for medical reasons---they didn’t steal the border—they are here legally and for a reason, to save their lives and even to help us save the lives of others.

There are not tens of thousands of these young people here that will overwhelm our medical system—best estimates are that there are about 1000 deferred applications/year, not all of which are granted (in a country of over 350 million).

There seems to be no rational, humane reason for the termination of the program other than, as the Boston Globe editorial asserts, “intentional cruelty”. To make sure the message goes out around the world that the Trump administration doesn’t give a damn what ails you---“we don’t want your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” or your sick young people whom we can help. Our “golden door” is shut.

I am aware of the dangers of Holocaust analogies---in my years with the Anti-Defamation League I did my share of debunking inappropriate invocations of the Holocaust as a comparison to contemporary events. The Holocaust was unique in its savagery, inhumanity and scale.

However, I can't, in reading about today's soon-to-be-expelled young people, help but recall the US government's reaction to the SS St. Louis which set sail in 1939 from Germany with 900 Jews on board seeking refuge from the on-coming Holocaust.

After they were rejected by Cuba, the ship sought haven in a US port, but were denied entry and the ship returned to Europe. The United States government authorities knew what awaited the passengers if they were forced to turn around (in fact, nearly a third died in the Holocaust) but were afraid of setting an example of accepting refugees without proper documentation. They were more than willing to ignore the imminent human tragedy in order to "protect our rules." Sounds awfully familiar.

However exhausted we may be by Trump’s actions; this one may be the capper for sheer nastiness, callousness and inhumanity; it is truly unforgivable.