A few weeks ago, the right-wing Daily Caller ran a piece with the sensational headline “Transgender hormone treatments, abortion access for detained illegals irks congressman.” It’s about House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith’s opposition to humane treatment of immigrants detained by our government as they fight deportation. Smith, a Republican from Texas, is known for being one of the loudest and most aggressive anti-immigrant voices in Congress.
You know what “irks” me? When politicians (or anyone for that matter) play politics with people’s lives.
The Obama Administration recently announced updated policies about how it intends to treat the hundreds of thousands of immigrants it detains every year—including undocumented immigrants, families, lawful permanent residents, survivors of torture, asylum seekers, children, and pregnant women.
And these policies, which have been put in place to combat inhumane treatment in detention centers, apparently “irk” Chairman Smith even more. He’s called the updated detention standards a “hospitality guideline,” and is holding a hearing today to examine them. The hearing is—incredibly--called “Holiday on ICE: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s New Immigration Detention Standards."
The detention policies were created after the media and numerous organizations exposed seriously inhumane and even deadly treatment of immigrants held in U.S. civil detention facilities over the past decade. Lack of access to medical screenings and treatment led to unnecessary suffering and preventable deaths. The government failed to protect women from sexual abuse in detention, and failed to punish abuse when it happened—leading to nearly 200 complaints of sexual abuse from 2007 to 2011. People going through the deportation process—one of the most traumatic and difficult experiences imaginable—were denied basic legal and human rights.
Smith & Co. are talking as if living in immigration detention is akin to being on vacation. It’s just appalling, and it gets worse.
Smith has also dispatched culture war allies, like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, to Fox News to link the war on immigrants to the war on women. (A key fact about the Family Research Council: It has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center).
Talking about the rule on abortions in immigration detention, which says the government will assume the costs of terminations in situations of rape or incest or where the mother’s life is in danger, Perkins said on FOX News:
“You never need an abortion to save the life of a mother. The mother is the primary patient. If you’re working to save the life of the mother and the child dies, that’s not an abortion…. You talk about the issue of rape, that’s such a small percentage of pregnancies that are out there. Plus, how do you verify that that, in fact, is the case? That it’s a case of rape? Again, this comes down to government funds being used to advance radical social policy that is masquerading as health care.”
Now I’m not a doctor, but I am a woman. Tony Perkins and Lamar Smith are neither, and their positions sound a lot like “radical social policy” to me -- and a pretty sad commentary on their “values”...or lack thereof.