This weekend, prominent Catholic leaders such as Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski took aim at President Trump's directive to rip children away from their parents at the border. One top Jesuit called the policy, under which Border Patrol agents have locked hundreds of children in cages, "pure evil" and "wantonly cruel."
Sen. Marco Rubio campaigns on being a staunch Catholic. He begins every morning by posting multiple Bible verses on Twitter. This morning it was Psalms 5: 5-7: "You hate all who do evil."
Yet Rubio spent the weekend defending Trump's policy and, absurdly, blaming President Obama for the scenes playing out along the border, which are so vile that the Trump-backing evangelical leader Franklin Graham called them "disgraceful." Laura Bush compared the actions to Japanese internment camps during World War II.
"This is not just some plan to cruelly torture people," Rubio told WTSP-TV during a visit to Sarasota this past Saturday.
Yet it's apparent that torture is exactly what this plan is about. As the New York Times revealed last week, racist ideologue Stephen Miller has spent the past year pushing Trump to adopt the policy, which is designed to be so awful and gut-wrenching that it scares other immigrants — many of whom are fleeing brutal drug violence and civil conflict — from seeking refuge in the United States.
The cruelty is the entire point.
Since Trump relented and instructed border agents to begin tearing away children — even infants — from their mothers at detention centers, more than 2,000 kids have been separated. The conditions they face are brutal. Here is the lead from an Associated Press story this morning about a McAllen, Texas facility housing children taken from their parents:
Inside an old warehouse in South Texas, hundreds of children wait in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.
Those conditions are cruel. And for children under the age of 5, it is actual torture. That's according to the thousands of mental-health professionals and more than 90 medical organizations that have demanded that Trump stop this practice, because such a brutal separation can irreparably harm young children.
But this past Saturday, after downplaying the seriousness of the child separations, Rubio also said they're actually Obama's fault.
"The Obama administration was just releasing everyone, the parents and the kids, and a significant percentage of the people they released never came back, never showed up for a hearing, never heard from them again," Rubio said. "So what the Trump Administration is doing — and the president campaigned on it — they're not going to release the adults. We're not allowed to hold the kids by law, and frankly we shouldn't. There's no family shelter capability either, so that's why this is happening."
In fact, as New York Magazine detailed last week, the no-tolerance border policy has been on the books since 2005, but both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations decided the American government should not be in the business of ripping children away from their families.
Instead, mothers and children were detained together as they worked their way through the immigration system. It wasn't a perfect plan. But it also wasn't redolent of internment camps. It didn't lead to border agents lying to parents about taking their kids for a quick shower and then later telling them they would never return. It didn't lead to hundreds of weeping, traumatized children locked in metal cages.
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In an earlier interview on Meet the Press, Rubio halfheartedly pushed back against Trump's plan, saying that "ideally, you wouldn't put people through additional trauma" and that he'd be open to changing the policy.
But as Rubio has done throughout the Trump administration's swing toward outright white-nationalist authoritarianism, he won't actually take on the president. Rubio has so far refused to back a bill to forbid child separations at the border.
And now the senator is rolling out his own specious arguments to excuse the evil playing out on the U.S. border. Instead of parroting the Bible on Twitter, Rubio should take a second to listen to people such as Father James Martin, the editor of the Jesuit's America Magazine.
"Like many, I've resisted using this word, but it's time: the deliberate and unnecessary separation of innocent children from their parents is pure evil. It does not come from God or from any genuinely moral impulse. It is wantonly cruel and targets the most vulnerable," Martin tweeted yesterday. "Anyone who participates in this kind of wanton cruelty is also guilty of this evil."