Reporting by the New York Times Wednesday that Customs and Border Protection officials floated in 2018 the idea of using a "heat ray"weapon to deter migrants at the border was seized upon by the president's critics as more evidence of the Trump administration's cruelty-driven immigration policies.
"It's unconscionable that this was even considered," the ACLU of Massachusetts said in a tweet responding to the Times reporting.
"The fact that top officials suggested using this torture device to deter immigrants shows the real motivation behind Trump's immigration policies: cruelty and racism," the group wrote.
According to the Times, the idea was suggested by CBP officials during a meeting with top Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials. The meeting came just 15 days ahead of the midterm elections, and the same day President Donald Trump said at an earlier meeting that "extreme action" was needed to block migrants' entry. From the Times:
Developed by the military as a crowd dispersal tool two decades ago, the Active Denial System had been largely abandoned amid doubts over its effectiveness and morality. Two former officials who attended the afternoon meeting at the Department of Homeland Security on Oct. 22, 2018, said the suggestion that the device be installed at the border shocked attendees, even if it would have satisfied the president.
Then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen—ousted last year by Trump for reportedly not being brutal enough in executing a crackdown on immigration—rejected the idea following the meeting, the Times reported, and a DHS spokesperson said Wednesday the weapon "was never considered."
The Times added:
Like the heat ray, many of the president's ideas—including the moat and shooting migrants in the legs—were thwarted by his own officials. Other policy proposals have been blocked by federal judges who have ruled that they violated existing laws, administrative rules or the Constitution.
But the administration's pursuit of radical changes to immigration policies, pushed by Stephen Miller, have not been for naught. "They have effectively shut down the asylum system at the border," Omar Jadwat, the director of the Immigrants' Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the newspaper.
The revelations in the new reporting sparked a flurry of critical responses on Twitter:
Make no mistake: torture & cruelty are guiding principles of this administration's immigration policies. Case in point: mtgs where they ideate on twisted tactics like a microwave heat ray & flesh-piercing spikes on the border wall. #SaveAsylum https://t.co/HVDk0U9H1L
— ImmDef (@ImmDef) August 26, 2020
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— Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (@NWIRP) August 26, 2020
Trump admin officials discussed deploying "a heat-ray designed by the military to make people’s skin feel like it is burning" against people seeking asylum.
It's unconscionable, but unsurprising — President Trump has dehumanized and demonized immigrants.https://t.co/ubbETbcV0J
— Hispanic Caucus (@HispanicCaucus) August 26, 2020
These people are monsters. https://t.co/2WFsnHVttz
— Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (@ayanaeliza) August 26, 2020
They wanted to use Heat Rays.
They wanted to use Heat Rays against immigrants.
— RAICES Action Fund (@RAICESACTION) August 26, 2020
"Maximum cruelty and maximum harm: That is how this administration operates. It is their policy and their platform," tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
"They even considered using a military weapon to burn the skin off refugees and asylum seekers," Jayapal continued. "It's horrifying, it's inhumane—and it cannot be our future."