Trump just made a horrifying demand of the Pentagon about 20,000 immigrant kids

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Donald Trump may have shut down the swelling chorus of critics at least temporarily by suddenly reversing his position and signing an executive order that appears to end the president’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents on the border with Mexico, but there is growing confusion about what he really accomplished and when it might actually have an impact on innocent children currently housed in cages.

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At best Trump’s order should result in the reunion of the children with their parents so that they all are together inside American detention camps or prisons – but when and even if that will happen is far from clear.

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Today, a day after signing his order, the Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services requested the Pentagon to prepare to provide living quarters for as many as 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on American military bases, reports The New York Times, citing a U.S. official.

“The request comes as federal agencies on Thursday offered competing and contradictory explanations of what was happening to immigrant families the house after Mr. Trum’s order,” reports the NY Times, “leaving it unclear where families were being held and whether they were being prosecuted.”

One government official said that the 2,300 or so children being held will not be reunited iwth their parents, and a few hours later another said they will be reunited – eventually.

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One government official told reporters prosecution of illegal immigrants had been suspended, but then the Justice Department said prosecutions are going forward.

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The request to the Pentagon is also confusing. It is one thing if the defense department is being asked to house children on military bases, but quite another if, as the NY Times quickly suggests, it may really be entire families that have to be supplied with a place to live. 

If it is families, and the parents are under arrest and awaiting a federal judicial review, then that would require prison like housing with guards and security, as opposed to a place for children that meets federal court guidelines which require a decent place to sleep, food to eat, some kind of activities and medical care.

Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) questioned how the military will be able to house 20,000 children, asking: “Is it even feasible?”

Like most of what Trump does, his executive order was issued impulsively with little coordination among the federal agencies that need to play a role in solving the crisis. 

So when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was asked if the military can house both children and families at facilities expected to be in Texas and Arkansas, he “was noncommittal,” reports the NY Times.

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“When pressed,” adds the NY Times, “Mr. Mattis said, ‘We have housed refugees. We have housed people thrown out of their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes. We do whatever is in the best interest of the country’.”

Trump meanwhile was back on Twitter and in speeches and brief press clutches blaming everyone from Mexico to Democrats for the crisis that he and his administration created.

In reality, even with the executive order, there are many unresolved issues, such as the consent decree which limits the time a child can be held alone or with his parents to 20 days, with the clock constantly ticking.

Whatever Trump does will face additional legal challenges from advocates for immigrant rights and others, and concerns by Congress about what is really happening, how much it is costing, how long it will continue and how it will all end if it ever does.

So Trump may have bought himself some time with his faux-executive order – but he has solved little and the problems will soon return to haunt him again. 

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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