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A tale of two presidents: Condemn Trump’s policy, erase Obama’s

Prominent Democrats are especially outraged at Trump’s heartless and racist immigration policy — as they should be. It has also been condemned by former First Lady Laura Bush, who said “it breaks my heart,” and Michelle Obama called, who called “on members of all [political] parties to wake up and take action.”

Bill and Hillary Clinton also weighed in with their deep concern, and Oprah Winfrey said that she “Can’t stand it.” Given the Clintons’ record of destroying families and children within the U.S. and abroad in endless wars, however, their condemnation is hollow and beneath contempt. Citizen activist Ralph Nader responded to Bush and Obama’s attack on Trump’s cruel policy by asking “Why [They Had] No ‘Heartfelt Concern for Tens of Thousands of Children Killed or Seriously Maimed” by Their Husbands’ Wars?” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen (Common Dreams, June 22nd). He should have added Hillary Clinton to the First Lady response.

Despite his own criminal immigrant policy, Barack Obama had the audacity to say, “To watch those families broken apart puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families and works to keep them together?” (Yahoo News, June 20). The moral stench of Obama’s hypocrisy is overwhelming, and his admirers need only compare his eloquent concern with the documented record.

During his presidency, Obama’s Homeland Security deported 2.7 million people — nearly 1,000 a day — and immigrant rights groups called him the “Deporter in Chief.” By the end of 2015, he had deported more migrants than any president in U.S. history. Did prominent Democrats express the outrage they now direct at Trump’s atrocious migrant policy?

Obama’s administration arrested “tens of thousands of undocumented parents whose kids were U.S. citizens, causing them to lose contact with their children”; “ ‘disappeared’ those parents in the immigration enforcement system, where they were nigh-on impossible to track down, before deporting them to countries they hadn’t lived in for as long as decades”; “orphaned thousands of kids who were left without a legal guardian when their parents were shunted to another country”: sent the parents of those kids to places where there was more than a good chance they’d be kidnapped, tortured, sexually assaulted, killed, or sometimes all of the above”; and “traumatized both the kids left behind and the kids whose parents were undocumented but not yet arrested, which saw those kids develop symptoms of PTSD, stress-based health problems, and night terrors” (Branko Marcetic, Jacobin, May 28, 2018). Did prominent Democrats condemn these horrors?

Obama admirers appear to be total denial that “wrenching parents away from their kids — in many cases, permanently — was for many years a regular, known outcome of [Obama’s] policies.” With regard to migrant family issues, one has to “wonder when it was decided that [one president’s] policy [is] ‘evil’ while the other [is] acceptable” (Marcetic).

The absence of principled protest against Obama’s policy by influential Democrats reveals that the suffering of immigrant children and their parents is only an issue when promoted by a vile racist like Trump, not by a charming, articulate, former law professor. Because of this huge moral double standard, present outrage at the horrible treatment of migrants should be seen as opportunistic and partisan (something that Republicans also do).

Leading Democrats who now condemn Trump’s criminality have decided that “there are certain circumstances under which they can live with other people’s suffering.” This suffering includes the poverty of immigrant children who live here, which did not begin with Trump. The U.N. top expert on extreme poverty calls them victims of “a complete lack of compassion” who are becoming “ever more invisible.”

Despite fine dissenting efforts by principled progressives within the Democratic Party, those who control it cannot claim they stand for the humane values that should guide the nation’s immigration policy, and its treatment of poor children. Therefore, while Trump’s present abuse must be totally and militantly opposed, history should teach us that the party establishment has no interest in getting at the root causes of the horrors afflicting migrant families.

John Marciano lives in Talent.