The Refugee Hypocrisy of President Obama and Hillary Clinton

Former State Sec. Hillary Clinton and Pres. Barack Obama (Marc Nozell/Flickr)

Former State Sec. Hillary Clinton and Pres. Barack Obama (Marc Nozell/Flickr)

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have seized upon the Paris terrorist attacks to launch political attacks against Republicans in response to their xenophobic statements on admitting Syrian refugees.

When speaking in the Philippines, President Obama stated, “When candidates say we shouldn’t admit three-year-old orphans, that’s political posturing,” adding, “these are the same folks oftentimes that say they’re so tough that just talking to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin or staring down ISIL or using some additional rhetoric will solve the problem, and they’re scared of widows and three-year-old orphans.”

Hillary Clinton piled on, stating that “We have always welcomed immigrants and refugees. … We have made people feel that if they did their part, they sent their kids to school, they worked hard, there would be a place for them in America.”

It appears that both President Obama and former State Secretary Clinton have very short memories, or at the very least they hope that we do. Recent history reminds that the president has been jailing “three-year-old orphans” in deportation internment camps for well over a year now, where they are subjected to abuse, neglect and torture.

Immigration lawyer Dree Collopy, a partner of the Washington D.C. firm of Benach Ragland, spoke about the abuses she witnessed while representing refugees in one of Obama’s family deportation jails in Artesia, New Mexico. Ms. Collopy encountered dehydrated, listless and malnourished children “clinging to their mothers, while their mothers’ pleas for medical care were met with degrading and abusive treatment.” As she said:

I can say without a doubt that these women and their children are refugees. They have come here seeking protection from the horrific violence they have suffered — beatings, rape, human trafficking — all at the hands of actors whom their governments fail and refuse to control. They have come here trying to survive, and they have come here to save their children’s lives.

Yet, unlike the refugees who preceded them, they have arrived here in the United States and been thrown in jail, where they have been kept for months in inhumane conditions and where they are refused meaningful access to counsel and interpreters, witnesses and evidence, family and emotional support, mental health care, and other tools that are essential to seeking protection in any meaningful way.

Thankfully, a federal judge has put her foot down, ordering the prompt release of refugee children while calling Obama’s family deportation jails “deplorable,” and finding that they fail to pass minimal standards for safe and sanitary conditions. Predictably, the Obama administration appealed the decision.

If only the hypocrisy stopped there. To add constitutional violation to injury, not only is the Obama administration abusing refugee children, they are circumventing due process by expeditiously deporting them without a lawyer.

As for political posturing, prior to launching her presidential campaign, Clinton was abundantly clear that refugee children “should be sent back” as soon as possible, mirroring the positions of the Obama administration. These positions were articulated during the height of the refugee crisis by the assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz.

In an interview with NPR, Ms. Muñoz explained:

That’s the intention here, again, is to make sure that for those kids who end up being removable — and we think that’s probably going to be a majority of the kids in this situation — that they don’t remain in the United States for years and that we cut down the amount of time that it takes.

Contrary to these assertions, nearly 50 percent of the refugee children represented by counsel have been granted relief from removal.

After announcing her candidacy, Clinton doubled down, maintaining her position on the deportation of refugee children, and has recently touted her “numerous” votes to build a wall on the southern border, while dehumanizing the undocumented population with incendiary and racist language, even raising the eyebrows of some Democrats.

The point being, maybe President Obama and former Secretary Clinton should gain the moral high ground before throwing stones at their Republican counterparts. But I guess that really doesn’t matter when there are Republicans to demagogue, and three-year-olds to deport.


Matthew Kolken is an immigration lawyer and the managing partner of Kolken & Kolken, located in Buffalo, New York. His legal opinions and analysis are regularly solicited by various news sources, including MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post, Forbes Magazine, and The Los Angeles Times, among others. You can follow him @mkolken.

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