THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS DOING nearly everything in its power to ensure that life for asylum-seekers, particularly women, is hell.
On the ground, the Department of Homeland Security has doubled down on inhumane enforcement practices, like keeping pregnant women locked up in immigration detention and forcibly separating parents and children. Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has provided the legal justification for such practices: a “zero-tolerance policy” aimed at prosecuting every possible case of “illegal entry” on the southwestern border.
As the apparent ringleader of this program of state-sponsored trauma, Jeff Sessions is willfully blinding himself to the specific gendered issues faced by many migrants, especially those from Central America. Like Trump and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, he sees large numbers of asylum claims not as what they are—the result of widespread desperation, especially by women fleeing abuse—but as evidence of “loopholes” in our immigration system that are being exploited by migrant families looking for free rides into the US. However, in his war on refugee women, Sessions has only been able to assist DHS in its systematic harassment of immigrant families; he hasn’t been able to, as Trump would put it, go “nuclear” on the asylum system by actually changing the parameters of who is eligible. That is, not yet.