The immoral incoherence of Trumpist immigration policy (or: Donald Trump really does like people who didn’t get captured)

The Board of Immigration Appeals has decided that an El Salvadoran woman, “A-C-M” in court documents, should be removed from the United States because she poses a threat to security — she once received “military type weapons training” from  an El Salvadoran guerrilla group the US designated as terrorists way back in 1990, and US law allows the removal of migrants when “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the alien is a danger to the security of the United States.”

Sounds reasonable, no?


The problem? The woman offered “undisputed testimony that she was kidnapped by guerillas in El Salvador in 1990 and was coerced into undergoing weapons training and performing forced labor in the form of cooking, cleaning, and washing their clothes.”

In other words: Nobody disputes that the woman was forced into a life of servitude.

It gets worse: “The respondent was forced to witness her husband, a sergeant in the Salvadoran Army, dig his own grave before being killed.” If anybody deserves pity, surely it’s this woman.

Not according to the Trump Administration

The government’s response? There is no “self-defense or duress exception” to the law enabling deportation for serving with terrorist groups. There is — according to the Trump Administration — no legal distinction between between being the victim or perpetrator of a crime.

Read the decision here. The case hinges on whether the woman provided “material support” for the guerrilla group. Since she did the work, the majority of the BOIA decides, she’s gotta go.

Donald Trump once dismissed John McCain’s time as POW by saying “I like people who weren’t captured.” Now his government is turning that sentiment into policy.

A dissenting member of BOIA notes: “Individuals arriving in this country from ‘some of the most dangerous and chaotic places on earth . . . may not have been able to avoid all contact with terrorist groups and their members, but we should not interpret the statute to exclude on this basis those who did not provide ‘material’ support to them,’ since ‘[m]any deserving asylum-seekers could be barred otherwise.’

Does anybody doubt that’s the point?

To interpret the law in such a fashion is to leave one’s moral sense at the dry cleaners while at the office: It is foolish at best, immoral at worst. Given that Donald Trump is in charge, I think we can assume that both are true.

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