ACTION ALERT: Trump Escalates His “War on Children”
Legal immigrants and those in need are targeted, but all are at risk
(August 27, 2019) — President Trump seems to relish persecuting and punishing children, especially brown and black children. This has been most apparent in his assault on undocumented families. There is the cruel separating of immigrant children from their parents at the border, imprisoning them in cages, and, most recently, the prospect of indefinite detention for them.
Less publicized, but of urgent concern, is the upsurge in Trump’s war on our vulnerable young. This escalation threatens the very survival of hundreds of thousands of legalimmigrant children, will deprive millions of disadvantaged American children of basic food needs and subjects all American children to exposure to brain damaging neurotoxins.
Sophie’s Choice for Legal Immigrants
This month, the Trump administration—under the guidance of Senior White House Advisor Stephen Miller—took aim at the 26 million legal immigrants in this country. The Department of Human Services (DHS) finalized a rule mandating that a legal immigrant’s use of food stamps, housing, health care, or other non-cash benefit programs, would be a strong strike against them when applying for permanent legal status, also known as a green card.
Even if a legal immigrant has not used federal assistance in the past, the reviewer of the green card application can predict that it is likely the applicant will use these programs in the future and thereby deny the request. This is a new and daunting hurdle for all but the wealthiest legal immigrants seeking a road to becoming productive citizens. Unless halted by court challenges, this rule will go into effect on October 15.
The finalization of the DHS rule means that millions of legal immigrants face a harrowing dilemma: if they use federal aid to provide adequate food (or shelter or health care) for themselves and their children, they may doom their chances for residency, citizenship, and an opportunity to work and stay in this country. In order to preserve their hopes of achieving the American Dream, they may will be forced to have their children go hungry and fail to thrive.
It is estimated that one in four American children lives in an immigrant family. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), this new Trump rule will carry “serious consequences for many of these children.”
Even before the rule was finalized, the AAP reported that their members were seeing a “chilling effect” with frightened families avoiding or dis-enrolling from critical health programs or services their children need. In the near future, we could see hundreds of thousands of children of legal immigrants going without food, not accessing needed medical care and becoming homeless.
Marielena Hincapie, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center summarized the results of the new rule: “It will have a dire humanitarian impact. The damage will be felt for decades to come.” The tragedy for these children and their families may not have the visibility or immediate shock impact of seeing children ripped from their parent’s arms or caged. But it is an appalling example of Trump weaponizing immigration rules against children as a cynical, political ploy to secure the white supremacy segment of his base.
Let Them Eat Neurotoxins
The Trump war on children comes in many forms and all America’s children are at risk. Just last month, the administration announced that it would not ban the agricultural use of the neurotoxic insecticide, chlorpyrifos. This means that this dangerous chemical will continue to be used throughout U.S. agriculture and will be present on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This pesticide has been proven to harm children’s brain development including irreversible lowering of IQs, loss of working memory, and attention deficit disorder. When pregnant women are exposed to this chemical, it can permanently harm their newborns. This action by Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a 180 degree turn from the position of the Obama Administration, which supported a chlorpyrifos ban.
There is no need for complex detective work to deduce what was behind Trump’s decision to put our children’s health at risk. Dow Chemical has been making this pesticide since 1965 (which is now made by its spin-off company Corteva Agriscience). The company contributed $1 million to Trump’s inauguration celebration and former Dow Chairman Andrew Liveris was a key consultant for Trump in his push to deregulate toxics in our environment. Liveris actually stood behind the president when he signed the Executive Order to slash regulations and Trump thanked him by name while giving him a souvenir pen.
Fortunately, through the work of my organization, the Center for Food Safety, and many allied groups, chlorpyrifos is now banned in Hawaii and New York. California has taken legal steps to cancel its registration and bans are currently pending in several other states. But the children of farm workers and those living near agricultural fields in states where it is still in use are in the front line of brain-damaging exposure. And all children are imperiled. Chlorpyrifos residues are ubiquitous in what we feed our children. We’ve heard that children should “eat their broccoli” or “have an apple a day,” but because of the president’s action that could mean a daily dose of neurotoxins.
Let them eat…nothing
Trump’s recent escalating war on children is also threatening to deprive America’s economically struggling families of any food at all. Within days of EPA’s chlorpyrifos decision, Trump’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a proposal for new eligibility restrictions that would deny 3.1 million Americans access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). Almost half of all food assistance recipients are children, so this means that more than a million children could go hungry.
Moreover, members of Congress investigating these new restrictions realized that—though this went undisclosed by the USDA—these new rules would deny 500,000 children their school lunches. For many of our children, this is their main or only meal of the day. So this is a two-pronged attack on the 12.5 million American children who live in food insecure households: hundreds of thousands will be denied federal food assistance under SNAP and will also be barred from the National School Lunch Program.
Trump’s vindictive and callous actions towards these children will inevitably lead to tragic outcomes. From newborns to teenagers, lack of sufficient food has serious short and long term impacts. Inadequate nutrition for expectant mothers and infants is a major factor in the U.S. ranking 31st in the world for infant mortality, with a 71% higher rate than comparable countries such as Canada, Australia, Britain, or Japan.
Food insecurity in school aged children can lead to weight loss, delayed physical growth, impaired learning, and poor productivity. In adolescents, it can lead to long term cognitive and behavior problems, chronic illnesses, and serious psychological issues including tendencies for depression and suicide.
One wonders if Trump realizes that whites represent the largest share of the 40 million Americans who use federal food aid. Many of these families are the rural poor who may be supporters of the president. Ironically, his war against these food insecure children might well be an attack on his own re-election.
USDA’s proposed rules cutting food assistance to families in need will be finalized in the coming months. There is sure to be litigation to halt them brought by food safety organizations and those states whose population are most effected. Hopefully legal action can halt these regulations or at a minimum delay any implementation of them until a new more humane and child-friendly administration arrives in 2021.
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It is a truism that our children are our future. Does President Trump really think he can make America’s future great by subjecting tens of millions of children to brain-damaging chemicals in their food that can permanently impair their mental abilities?
Does he think that subjecting millions of our country’s children to food insecurity or starvation by depriving them of food aid and school lunches will make them more likely to be good citizens and leaders?
Does he think that forcing legal immigrant parents pursuing the American Dream to starve their children or go homeless is how we can again become a great land of opportunity?
Obviously not. It is clear that the president puts the bottom line of companies like Dow ahead of the public health of our children; that his contempt for the poor leads to a Social Darwinian disregard for their health or even their survival; and that his open, eugenic hatred of immigrants causes him to welcome using deprivation and illness as a tool to reduce their numbers and placate his base.
Trump’s war against our children may not constitute crimes and misdemeanors under the law but it is certainly the moral equivalent.
Andrew Kimbrell an attorney, author, and the executive director of the Center for Food Safety. He is a frequent contributor to Huffington Post and Alternet.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
ACTION: Sign the Petition: Denounce Trump Robbing FEMA Funds to Lock More Kids in Cages
Right at the beginning of hurricane season, the Trump administration plans to divert $271 million in federal disaster aid to beef up funding for ICE detention facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Reallocating the funding is in direct defiance of congressional authority—and an outrageous move as storms begin to form off the Gulf Coast.
Denying resources for hurricane victims so ICE can terrorize asylum seekers is disgusting. This must be stopped.
Sign the petition: Denounce Trump for robbing FEMA funds to lock up more kids in cages and pursue its inhumane policy at the U.S.-Mexico border.
I am outraged that Homeland Security would steal $271 million during hurricane season from emergency preparedness to fund more ICE detention centers at the border. I expect Congress to do its part to rein in such outrageous behavior.