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Weekend Read: Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign gets even crueler

The list of cruelties that the Trump administration is inventing in its zeal to punish migrants and their children keeps getting longer and more extreme.

This week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, beginning on Oct. 29, U.S. government employees and members of the armed services who are overseas will no longer be considered to be “residing” in the United States. 

Shockingly, that means that, for some service members,if their children are born overseas, those children are not automatically granted citizenship. They would have to apply for it.

The announcement, which came a week after President Trump mused about ending birthright citizenship, caused widespread confusion and consternation among military and diplomatic groups.

“Forcing [members] to go through bureaucratic hurdles for no apparent reason, just to get their children naturalized as American citizens, does a great disservice to people who have dedicated their lives to serving their country,” tweeted American Foreign Service Association President Eric Rubin. “Frankly, it is hard to explain and deeply worrying.”

CNN quoted a Navy officer who said the policy was causing anxiety among military spouses. “You should go onto a spouse Facebook page and see the freakouts,” the officer said. 

It wasn’t the only new policy that came to light this week,

In a major departure from longstanding policy, critically ill children who have been granted special status to get medical treatment in the United States are being told to leave the country within 33 days.

Bess Levin wrote in Vanity Fair: “When you’ve already separated families, thrown children in cages, and held them in conditions that “could be compared to torture facilities,” it’s a bit of a challenge to come up with your next act. Evil takes creativity, and once you’ve forced migrant kids to go weeks without a shower or change of clothes and fed them expired food, it’s tough to continue nailing those Hitler comparisons. Somehow, though, the Trump administration always rises to the occasion.”

This policy was also hatched by the USCIS, the same agency that came up with the new idea for the children of diplomats and members of the armed services. The agency is now headed by Ken Cuccinelli, who has been dubbed the “new Stephen Miller” by The Atlantic. Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general, is a longtime anti-immigrant, anti-LBGTQ ideologue and “birther” who once proposed legislation to make speaking Spanish on the job a fireable offense and defended a state law prohibiting sodomy. 

Lately, he’s been a reliable Trump cheerleader on cable TV.

“Cuccinelli may well have been created in a Trump-branded petri dish,” wrote Elaina Plott for The Atlantic. “He’s spent decades advocating for far-right positions on a variety of social issues, and the 50-year-old practicing Catholic enjoys widespread support among conservative evangelicals.”

Thousands of children, including those with leukemia, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, could be affected by this new USCIS rule. Some of them will likely die as a result.

Mariela Sanchez, a native of Honduras, told The Associated Press that her 16-year-old son “would be dead” if he had not gotten permission to be treated in Boston for cystic fibrosis. His sister already died of the disease. Now, he is being told to leave.

“Can anyone imagine the government ordering you to disconnect your child from life-saving care – to pull them from a hospital bed – knowing that it will cost them their lives?” said Anthony Marino, who is representing immigrant families at the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston. 

Yes, we can imagine.

We’re battling the administration in the courts on numerous immigration policies.

Last week, we filed a class action suit on behalf of migrants who are being denied health care and disability accommodations while being held in inhumane detention centers. Through our Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, we’re providing free representation to migrants held at some of the largest detention facilities in the South.

We’re also representing migrants in administrative complaints against the federal government to help them receive compensation for the physical, mental and emotional harm caused by the administration’s family separation policy. 

We don’t know what the Trump administration will do next.

But, over these last two years and seven months, if there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s to expect the worst.

Photo by Getty Images