Ours is, after all, a nation of laws, right? We value justice and we believe everyone has a right to have their day in court. Right?
But what if the court is turned into a loony bin and the law itself becomes a mockery of justice? Welcome to the federal immigration courts struggling to deal with the loopiness of Trump's impetuous and imperious "zero tolerance" decree that all asylum seekers will be jailed and prosecuted as criminals, set for deportation back to the horrors they were fleeing.
How insane has it become? Toddlers, separated from their parents by Trump's border guards, are being ordered into court to defend themselves against deportation. "We were representing a 3-year-old in court," said dismayed defender of a migrant toddler, "and the child — in the middle of the hearing — started climbing up on the table." It really highlighted the absurdity of what we're doing with kids.
Not just doing "with" them, but to them. Fleeing unimaginable trauma in their home country, then suffering the pain of being torn away from their parents inside our border, the expectation that these little ones can mount a legal defense has rightly been labeled "unconscionable" and "grossly inappropriate" by experts. But I would add, inexpertly, that it is insane — and purely evil.
Here's a bit of Trumpian evil for you: Johan, a 1-year-old Honduran boy taken from his amnesty-seeking father by our president's border agents, was hauled alone into federal immigration court in July to argue for sanctuary. A one-year-old! An AP reporter wrote that the baby briefly played with a ball, drank, from a bottle, then "cried hysterically." The judge said he was too "embarrassed" to try explaining this judicial proceeding to anyone: "I don't know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law," the judge said in exasperation.
Maybe he could try explaining it to the U.S. president who has foisted this lunacy on us.
As it stands now, insanity reigns, and the inmates are now officially in charge of the national asylum.
Hidebound Donald Trump partisans keep insisting that their man is not certifiably insane, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. But surely some of them finally must admit that his perverse policy of snatching immigrant children from their parents' arms at the Mexican border and incarcerating the tykes for weeks in warehouse cages far away from any contact with mom and dad — is the epitome of Kafkaesque insanity.
Trump's political assault on 10-year-olds, four-year-olds, toddlers, and even infants is so cuckoo crazy that it's infectious, spreading delirium among some of his top aides, congressional enablers and media backers. In June, for example, Fox News Trumpateer Lara Ingraham dismissed reality by declaring that the captured children's stark holding cells "are essentially summer camps." Going deeper into the fog of irrationality, her sister Fox News commentator, Ann Coulter, babbled that the televised sight of Trump troopers seizing and terrifying little kiddos was not actually happening: "Those child actors weeping and crying on all the other networks 24/7 right now, don't fall for it Mr. President."
For his part, our immigrant-bashing Mr. President began to rant like a dotty old geezer that he would not allow "these people" to invade our country. He fumed that asylum seekers, even children, should not be given any legal avenue to address their plight. "No judges or court cases," he barked in series of tweets. "Tell the people 'OUT,' and they must leave, just as they would if they were standing on your front lawn."
Of course, Trump is not only a callous grump, but he's also gone completely loony about the essential role of the rule of law in our nation. In fact, if you stood on the front lawn of his Mar-a-Lago resort, he might have you removed by force, but you'd have access to a court to plead your case and seek justice. That's the American way, whether an autocratic property owner likes it or not.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)