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Cole writes: "John Kelly, White House chief of staff, is an immigrant-hating bigot, as demonstrated by a long series of Draconian statements and measures that would have embarrassed most normal people into a lifetime vow of silence in their wake."

John Kelly at the Medal of Honor ceremony on July 31, 2017. (photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
John Kelly at the Medal of Honor ceremony on July 31, 2017. (photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Kelly's "Family Separation" Recalls Slave Era Practice of Selling Parents Down the River

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

13 May 18


ohn Kelly, White House chief of staff, is an immigrant-hating bigot, as demonstrated by a long series of Draconian statements and measures that would have embarrassed most normal people into a lifetime vow of silence in their wake.

Kelly bizarrely defended Confederate slave drivers of the 1860s as having lived at a time before the evils of slavery were apparent to moral people. Haiti abolished slavery in 1804, Mexico in 1824 and Tunisia in 1846. But Kelly’s assertion becomes a little more understandable in view of his NPR interview on May 11.

On undocumented immigration, Kelly’s interview went like this:

Kelly: “But a big name of the game is deterrence.
NPR: “Family separation stands as a pretty tough deterrent.”
Kelly: “It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers.
NPR: “Even though people say that’s cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children?”
Kelly: “I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.

Kelly’s doctrine of “deterrence” of undocumented immigration into the US through family separation is undergirded by a special kind of sadism and ignorance combined. First of all, villagers in Honduras are not going to know about Kelly’s policy. Second, they are so desperate that many will take the risk anyway. Third, it is wrong to pounce and take US citizen children away from their mothers and fathers all of a sudden, giving them no time to make alternate arrangements. As for foster homes, with all due respect to the dedicated people who often run them, social science has proven that they are the biggest producer of a criminal class in the US. Children growing up without strong parental role models have a much greater chance of ending up in prison. Yes, that’s right. Social science says that if you want a safe society, don’t deport the parents of US citizen children.

Under Trump, ICE (which was only created recently and should be decommissioned) has been routinely doing things like traumatizing families by arresting undocumented parents when they come to pick up their children at school, in front of the eyes of the children, and leaving the latter unattended. The agents are not wrong to enforce the law, but this sort of tactic is clearly the result of instructions from Kelly and his successor, and is deliberate psychological warfare on American citizens.

Kelly’s self-satisfaction with getting rid of unwanted adults and putting their children, our fellow US citizens, in “foster care or whatever” (!!!) can only be compared to one phenomenon in American history.

Back in the days of slavery, white slave owners in the mid-Atlantic states like Kentucky used to separate fathers and sometimes mothers from their children and “sell them down the river” to the big plantation owners of the deep south.

Brown and black slaves were, like undocumented immigrants, not citizens and so they were not conceived by white elites as fully human persons. Hence, their families could be divided at will and parents could be sent far away, never to see their children again. They were treated like thoroughbred animals.

Kelly went on to slam these immigrants for not knowing English and for being unassimilable and having no skills. In fact, as conservative godfather Milton Friedman argued, they wouldn’t come here if they weren’t finding jobs that locals would not or could not fill. As for language and assimilation, Kelly’s own Italian-American side of the family came without English and remained here without citizenship for decades.

Undocumented immigration to the US is no longer a big problem. Every year, more Mexicans have left than come in during the past decade. There was an issue in the 1980s and 1990s, but measures were taken to deal with that issue. Since 2002 about 5 million persons have been deported, possibly a bit more under Obama than under Bush. There isn’t a crisis of arrivals and there isn’t a crisis in enforcement. Most of those who came in the 1980s and 1990s, by now have firm roots in their communities and are thick with citizen relatives, and some sort of amnesty ought to be arranged if we were a decent society. But then if we were a decent society we wouldn’t have invaded and occupied Iraq or elected Donald Trump president.

Kelly’s unconscious evocation of the old white supremacist practice of separating brown and black families and selling the adults down the river tells us that not as much has changed since the 1860s as a lot of us would have liked. your social media marketing partner


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+13 # librarian1984 2018-05-13 14:47
"put into foster care or whatever"

Translation: "I am scum."
+2 # tsyganka 2018-05-14 12:29
"Put into foster care of whatever."

Translation: Sex trafficking. Ca. 1700 of these children have vanished since Oct. 2017 after being torn away from their mothers and put into ICE 'detention' centers.
+11 # NAVYVET 2018-05-13 22:45
He makes me sick. How do these sociopaths become so evil? Is it mostly greed, or something crueler, from their own childhoods?
+4 # tsyganka 2018-05-14 12:41
NAVYVET - I recently read an article from 1975 that addresses this question. It's best to read it in full, but in simplistic brevity:

Lack of affectionate touch in infancy and childhood leads to violence in adulthood. Harsh punishment and abuse in childhood likewise leads to adult violence. Pleasure inhibits violence and violence inhibits pleasure.Religi ous notions, esp. with a harsh patriarchal god, lead to physical abuse and misogyny.

The affected people take revenge on women (and lack of love) by rape and other violence. Those who don't rape say that they enjoy alcohol and other violence-induci ng drugs more than sex. Society promotes violence - e.g., by accepting sexual-violence films but not sexual-pleasure films, by promoting alcohol (violence) but not marijuana (pleasure), by rejecting gender equality, etc.

The author is somewhat repetitive but has supporting data and more valid points than outlines above.

Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence by James W. Prescott
From "The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists", November 1975, pp. 10-20
+10 # jwb110 2018-05-13 22:58
We don't have to go back to America's slave years. We need only look at this same practice being done in Soviet Russia and to their own people. It is sort of a perversion of the poem of William Ross Wallace, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World. This isn't about deterrence. This is about taking children and putting them into a system of that is rife with abuse. The making of new little American Made field workers. What a crock of s#*t these guys are talking!!!!
+7 # boredlion 2018-05-13 23:13
John Kelly might, at one time, have benefited from reading Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," or some of Twain''s other writings on slavery and imperialism. But, far be it from me to expect these noodniks to read Mark Twain, nor to suspect that they might read anything of a humanistic nature.
They're all idiots - calling each other idiots ! A fine mess you've gotten us into !
+14 # James Klimaski 2018-05-14 03:14
Kelly, another pro family Republican.I just wonder what pro family really means to him. Just like the anti abortionists call themselves pro life, yet abandon any interest in the mother and child as soon as the baby is born.
+6 # laborequalswealth 2018-05-14 08:31
As if Republicans have any problem with slavery, child labor or the destruction of families.
+8 # chrisconno 2018-05-14 09:57
Indeed we seem to be trying to fulfill our own prophecy of the other colors as criminal. Foster care is not what it should be and also there are not enough foster care families as it is. Does that mean the 'whatever' Kelly casually states are going to be warehouses of immigrant children like the Russian orphanages created after Russia banned American adoption. I think there is a close connection to those warehoused kids and the cruel heartless criminals of the eastern European and Russian sex traffic trade. Adult social connections are vital to a child's development and understanding of living with others. The Lord of the Flies certainly depicts what can happen when children are left to their own governance. Warehousing kids is as immoral as it gets. Separating families does no good for anyone. What kind of people are we. Not the kind I want my kids to grow into.
+2 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-05-14 11:55
Kelly is a Mother Fucker. And, that is the proper term.
+2 # yolo 2018-05-14 15:06
While we are bombarded by propaganda of the poor people being repressed in countries like Syria, Iran and under Putin, and why we need to help them. How? By bombing them of course, in order to regime change. But here in the US its ok to break up families, and in Israel it's ok to shoot protesting Palestinians, nothing to see here just move along.

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