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The Pot Addresses the Kettle

As President Donald Trump mulls sanctions for China over its treatment of ethnic Uighurs, more than 13,000 young immigrants are in U.S. government custody

President Donald Trump has considered threatening China with sanctions over its treatment of Uighur Muslims, while the international community has condemned the Trump administration's separation and detention of immigrant families. (Photo: Shutterstock/Flickr/cc)

To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person. . . .

— Preamble to Charter of the United Nations

The good news is that, as of this writing, there is no talk of the Chinese imposing reciprocal sanctions on the United States.

According to a report in the New York Times, Donald is considering imposing sanctions on China because of the deplorable treatment by Chinese authorities of the ethnic Uighurs and other minority Muslims in internment camps in Xinjiang in northwestern China. A description by Human Rights Watch of a 117 page report dealing with “China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims” says the report “presents new evidence of the Chinese government’s mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life. Throughout the region, the Turkic Muslim population of 13 million is subjected to forced political indoctrination, collective punishment, restrictions on movement and communications, heightened religious restrictions, and mass surveillance in violation of international human rights law. The detainees in political education camps are held without any due process rights-neither charged nor put on trial-and have no access to lawyers and family. . . . “

Testifying at a congressional hearing that took place in July, Gulchehra Hoja, a Uighur-American journalist, said that two dozen of her family members were missing. She said: “I hope and pray for my family to be let go and released. But I know even if that happens, they will still live under constant threat.”

The descriptions by both the New York Times and Human Rights Watch, of how the Uighurs are being treated by the Chinese government make a compelling case for Donald to consider imposing sanctions. If he were to do that, it would be the first time that Donald would have taken any notice of human rights violations by China. And, of course, his reluctance may have had something to do with his fear that what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander and Donald is nothing, if not the gander.

Just days before the report by Human Watch was released, the gander and his administration announced new plans for dealing with immigrant families in the United States. In doing so, it is proposing to significantly alter the terms of the Flores settlement, an agreement that has been in place since 1997. The Flores settlement controls what happens to children who arrive in the United States without their parents. Among other things, it provides that they cannot be held in custody for more than 20 days. In 2015, the judge who monitors the government’s adherence to the terms of the settlement, ruled that it not only applied to children who arrived without their parents, but also applied to children who arrived with their parents. The judge said that the government had to release families with children within 20 days following their detention. In response to that order, the Trump administration began separating children from parents so that the parents could be held in detention indefinitely and the children held separately.

Under the new Trump proposal, children and parents alike can be kept in detention as long as Donald or his agents think necessary, and families and children could be kept in detention for many months and, in some cases, years.

Under the terms of the Flores settlement, children and families had to be housed in state or local government licensed facilities. Under the Trump proposal, there will not be a sufficient number of licensed facilities to accommodate the number of families Trump wants to detain. It is estimated that Immigration and Customs Enforcement-run family detention centers would increase in size from 3,000 beds to 12,000 beds. Instead of state or local government licensing being required for such facilities, all that is needed for one of the new facilities to be licensed is that there be an audit by an unspecified third party.

Under the Flores settlement, either unaccompanied children or children with families were required to be sent to a Health and Human Services Facility for unaccompanied children or a Department for Homeland Security facility for families, within 72 hours. A broad loophole in the proposed regulations eliminates that protection.

The proposed changes are too numerous to describe in a short space. Their effect is best described in a piece by Maria Benevento writing for the National Catholic Reporter. In her report she quotes Camilo Perez-Bustillo, Director of Advocacy, Leadership Development and Research for the Hope Border Institute. Commenting on the proposed Trump rule, Mr. Perez-Bustillo said: “What we’re talking about is an architecture of cruelty reflected in national policy, which I think can only be understood in terms of structural sin.” The new rule, he said, creates a “system deliberately set up to make the defense of people’s rights and the recognition of their humanity and dignity as difficult as possible.” He is not writing about the treatment of Uighurs by China; he is writing about Donald Trump’s proposed treatment of immigrants in the United States.

China has not yet suggested the imposition of sanctions on the United States as punishment for its treatment of immigrants. It may be waiting to see if the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement are implemented after the 60-day comment period. Or it may be waiting to see if Trump imposes sanctions on it for its treatment of the Uighurs. Time will tell. Meanwhile, Uighurs in China and illegal immigrants in the United States will remain subject to inhumane treatment by their respective governments.

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Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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