United States Immigration Policy: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann shares the dismay and condemnation articulated internationally and in the U.S. following the recent U.S. policy of removing children from their immigrant parents to take them into custody, views this as inhumane, undignified and unwarranted, and calls for it to be reversed immediately.

I speak in favour of the all-party motion and the sentiments it conveys. I thank Opposition parties for working to try to find agreement on the motion that we are all supporting.

We have all been rightly appalled by the images which have recently emerged of immigrant children being separated from their parents at the southern US border and held in detention by the US authorities. I have no desire to become involved in a US domestic debate about immigration. Clearly, every state has the right, indeed, a duty, to police its own borders and to enforce its immigration laws. This duty should, however, be discharged by all countries in line with international obligations and with respect for the human rights of all involved, especially children.

It would be helpful at the outset of this debate to outline the factors which have brought us to what is, in my opinion, a shocking and unacceptable situation. As the House will be aware, the issue of immigration has long been a politically sensitive one in the United States. We are all familiar with the situation of undocumented Irish citizens in the US. Many of us on all sides of the House will have discussed the plight of our citizens over the years with representatives of successive US Administrations and with politicians from both sides of the US political divide. We know first-hand how sensitive and challenging the issue of migration is in Washington.

The sensitivity of the issue has become even more acute in recent years. The southern border with Mexico has featured heavily in recent political campaigns and this led to the announcement in April this year of a so-called zero tolerance approach, whereby any adult found to be entering the United States illegally is liable to automatic criminal prosecution. I understand that US legal protocols prohibit the detention of children along with their parents where the children are not charged with a crime but the parents are so charged. It is as a consequence of this zero tolerance approach that, while adults are being detained by the US Marshals Service or the Bureau of Prisons pending a federal trial, their children are being separated from them and placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to US Customs and Border Protection, since early April, 2,300 children have been separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border and placed in detention. It is unclear how long these children will be separated from their families, but clearly such a policy risks having a traumatic effect on young children. As the Taoiseach said yesterday, we know from our own recent history how damaging the consequences can be of separating children from their parents. A number of medical organisations in the US have issued strong letters of protest citing an increased risk of anxiety and depression in the affected children as well as risks of post-traumatic stress and attention deficit disorder. Prior to this, the US authorities had followed policies that ensured that immigrant families who arrived illegally were not automatically split up when parents and children were detained. This approach was followed by the US Administration until April.

Deputies will have seen the shocking images of cages, foil blankets and crying children at US detention centres near the border and will be aware of widespread criticism of this policy from business groups, human rights organisations and many prominent Americans from across the political spectrum. All four living former US first ladies have publicly expressed opposition to this programme. I cannot do much better than quote Mrs. Laura Bush who said:

I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

This dismay is also reflected in wider civil society across the United States. We are by no means alone in voicing our concern in this House.

The United States and Ireland enjoy a unique relationship, built historically on the emigration of so many of our people to that country. This history of migration to the United States long predates US independence in 1776 and was particularly acute during the dark Famine years of the 1840s and in the generations that followed, right up to recent decades. This movement of people from Ireland to the United States formed the foundation of what is now a 33 million strong Irish-American diaspora.

Irish America has made an immense contribution to the United States, something that we should all be proud of. The US provided a refuge from persecution and poverty to generations of Irish people as it opened its doors not just to us but to many millions of immigrants from all over the world who will never forget their generosity and openness. We, the people of Ireland, will be forever indebted to the people of the United States for that welcome when our need was at its greatest.

We understand and accept that no country could now afford to have the kind of open immigration laws the US had in the 19th century. We in the European Union have ourselves struggled to agree on how best to deal with the challenges posed by large movements of people fleeing violence and despair in their home countries and seeing within our borders the prospects of a better life for themselves and their families. We have also seen, however, the terrible human suffering which lies at the heart of such migration, and we are acutely conscious of our responsibilities to afford protection to people who find themselves and their families in the most trying and dangerous of circumstances. We are particularly aware of the need to safeguard the rights and well-being of children who have been caught up in situations far beyond their control.

Ireland, in common with all member states of the European Union, has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which establishes clear universal standards for the protection of all children. The convention states that signatories shall ensure that children shall not be separated from their parents against their will, unless such a separation is necessary in the best interests of the child. I cannot see any way in which the current policy could be said to be in the best interests of the children who have been separated from their parents. While the United States has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the only UN member which has not done so, nevertheless there is surely an onus on all of us to pay due regard to internationally accepted standards of behaviour in the implementation of our laws.

It is doubly unfortunate that, just yesterday, at a time when international attention was focused on the treatment by the US of immigrant children, the US announced its intention to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council. This is a big setback in the standing of the US in the world. The United States has long been a key player in the development of a rules-based, multilateral system which has placed human rights at the centre of international relations. Famously, this included the leading role played by US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt 70 years ago in securing agreement on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States has a long and proud tradition of participating in multilateral fora in defence of human rights. Its continued full and active participation is essential to challenge the chorus of those who seek to decry and diminish the universal value of human rights. Now is not the time for the US to be stepping back from its international leadership responsibilities. The United States, as I have said, is entitled to police its own borders and enforce its immigration laws. It is clear to me, however, that the US authorities are not going about this the right way when it comes to dealing with families who have been apprehended while trying to enter the United States illegally across its southern border.

I hope that our friends in the United States will take these comments in the spirit in which they are intended, as friends speaking truthfully to one another, with a genuine concern. I am speaking here as a friend, as someone who looks to the United States for global leadership. Against this backdrop, it is deeply regrettable to see the good name of America being damaged by the shocking images that have been seen around the world in recent days. The policy of separating children from their parents is inhumane and simply wrong. This is not the America that I know and respect, nor is it in the best traditions of the great and generous American people. I urge the US, therefore, to reverse this policy of separation immediately, and I think everybody in this House is making the same call. I call on the US authorities to return these children to their parents without delay before potentially irreversible damage is done to them and also to the reputation of the United States.

I think there is some good news on the horizon. We have been hearing from Washington D.C. that the President intends to sign a document today that may well end this practice, and do so quickly, but we will await details with interest.

I am sharing time with Deputy O'Loughlin and Deputy Lisa Chambers. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to allow us to speak on this important matter. Fianna Fáil has sought and secured support from almost all of our colleagues on our motion condemning the US policy of removing children from their immigrant parents. Such a policy is, in my view and that of my party, cruel and demeaning. It is an act of inhumanity and one to which we cannot and should not turn a blind eye. The US Government has separated approximately 2,000 children from their parents at the border since implementing a practice that results in family separations.

This zero tolerance policy entails criminally charging those entering the US illegally, including asylum seekers. This has led to parents being separated from their children, who are not being charged with a crime. As a result of this policy, hundreds of children are being housed in detention centres, including warehouses and converted supermarkets. Images and videos of children in what are effectively cages and crying out for their parents are very distressing. This latest policy follows on from an executive order in February which included a 90 day travel ban from seven Muslim majority countries, a 120 day freeze on admission of any refugees into the United States, as well as an indefinite halt to admitting any refugees from Syria. At that time Fianna Fáil rightly criticised the executive order as discriminatory and a policy that undermined the integrity of the international refugee protection programme. I have no hesitation today in criticising this latest policy which results in children being mercilessly separated from their parents. It is simply wrong and America can and must do better.

Ireland is a friend of the United States, our countries enjoy a warm and enduring relationship and thousands of Irish people have come to consider the United States as their home. Our party very much values this relationship with the United States and recognises the importance of the close ties and strong bonds that we have built over many years and over different US administrations, and we want to maintain this relationship. Our friendship should not prevent us, however, from speaking the truth and calling out injustices when and where we see them. This is one time when we must speak up and speak out. I am calling, therefore, for this policy to be reversed immediately and for a more compassionate approach to be adopted.

We as a party recognise that migration poses challenges and some countries face more challenges than others, but all countries that believe in human rights, dignity and the fair and proportionate application of the law have a duty to deal with such challenges compassionately and fairly. While it is not always easy we must never lose sight of what is morally indefensible.

In a recently released report the UN Refugee Agency said that 68.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2017. Among them were 16.2 million people who became displaced during 2017 itself, either for the first time or on a repeated basis, indicating a huge number of people on the move and equivalent to 44,500 people being displaced each day, or a person becoming displaced every two seconds. War, conflict and poverty are forcing people to flee their homes and their countries to seek better lives elsewhere. The reality is that many do not undertake these journeys lightly and often risk their lives in the process. The scale of the migration crisis has presented many countries with challenges and America is no different, but what sets countries apart is how humanely they deal with this challenge. It is imperative that America, as a country that has so often led on human rights, reverses this indefensible policy immediately and reunites the children with their parents.

Events in Texas in the US have rightly caused an outrage right across the world. We see and hear that almost 2,000 immigrant children have been separated from their parents in April and May according to the Department of Homeland Security, and there is no doubt that this zero tolerance policy from the Trump Administration will serve to increase business for human smugglers who will use the separation policy to sell their services, arguing that they can help migrants to avoid border controls and hence stay with their children.

The Irish author, Donal Ryan, is a great chronicler of our times on social issues. I recently read his last novel, From a Low and Quiet Sea, which paints in words far stronger than mine the harsh reality for people trying to escape. When they are at their most vulnerable, they are taken advantage of by smugglers. Migrant babies and toddlers have been sent to so-called tender age shelters and we have seen pictures of distraught children in cages and heard audio of them calling out in distress for their parents. Using children as political bargaining chips must be the lowest form of politics and the Trump Administration must be condemned for its actions. If President Trump does sign the order today to cease these actions, we will have to ensure the 2,000 children who were separated from their parents in April and May are reunited.

This is World Refugee Day and we need to look at our own treatment of refugees in this country. The Government has limited the opportunities for family reunion under the International Protection Act 2015. Changes introduced in this law mean that only family members in a very restricted category can apply to be reunited and only within a very tight timeframe. The International Protection (Family Reunification) Amendment Bill 2017 passed through the Seanad in 2017 and now needs to progress through the Dáil. It is in the lottery system in my name and I call on anyone who condemns the US Administration to give their full support to the Bill to allow the State to deliver on its humanitarian commitments to allow grandparents to be reunited with grandchildren, children aged over 18 years to be reunited with their parents and elder brothers and sisters to be reunited with their younger siblings. The effects of separation are devastating and the right to family life and the protection of the family are enshrined in international human rights law. These are values that cut across cultures and unite all of us, or should. We need to show America and the rest of the world that Ireland is serious about sharing responsibility for those in need of international protection.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in favour of this all-party motion. I will begin with a quote from Robert F. Kennedy:

The United States was born in revolution and nurtured by struggle. Throughout our history, the American people have befriended and supported all those who seek independence and a better way of life.

If he were alive to see the America of today, he would find it far beyond the vision he had for his country and people. The United States is fast becoming an unrecognisable country. Children as young as one year are being kept in cages in areas which have been deemed to be concentration camps in Texas, with children whom they do not know minding them. We heard audio of children crying, wailing as they searched for their mothers and fathers, which is beyond reprehensible. It is disgraceful, disgusting and without excuse.

We are very afraid to condemn these actions. I wonder if it were Russia taking these actions, or other countries with which we are not so friendly, would we be as cautious in our words as we are being in this Chamber today? We have to very clear that we condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the actions of the Trump Administration and US immigration policy. These shelters have been termed "tender age shelters" for toddlers. Children are being torn from the arms of their mothers who do not know if they will ever get them back, which is beyond words. There is an element of disbelief across the world. We hear that there is to be some movement this evening and some law signed by the Republican Party to change this because, as President Trump said, "it looks bad." It looks far more than bad - it is downright disgraceful.

The damage caused by the trauma of what is being done to the children can never be repaired, even if they are reunited with their parents and I hope every effort will be made to do so. The United States should be championing human rights. It was the country which, 50 years ago, led the way on civil rights. It should be standing up for human rights, rather than stepping on people.

Sinn Féin supports the motion. Like many others, I have been disturbed and appalled by the images coming from the US-Mexico border. Separating children from their parents and detaining them in cages is inhumane and a violation of child and human rights. The audio mentioned of children crying out for their parents, while a federal officer said it was like an "orchestra", reveals just how far wrong the policy has gone. There are reports of lights being kept on for 24 hours a day in the detention centres where these cages are to be found and young children relying on others for basic things such as having their nappies changed. Another report revealed that a ten year old girl with Down's syndrome had recently been separated from her mother and young brother as they attempted to enter the USA. Clearly, children are getting lost in the new system and, increasingly, there are parents who are trying to find out where their children are being detained. A spokesperson for the US Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that over 2,300 children were separated from the 2,200 parents who had crossed the US border without documents between 5 May and 9 June. Amnesty International has stated the new policy of separation and the caging of children were nothing short of torture. I agree. It is mental and physical abuse.

The Trump Administration has reached a new low with this immoral policy which it should end. It is clear there has been a deep shift under the Trump Administration to criminalise immigration and dehumanise immigrants and those seeking asylum. President Trump said last night that immigrants were pouring into the USA and infesting the country. He has previously called immigrants "rapists" and claimed that the majority were criminals. Many of the families in question have gone through hell to reach the US border and risked death, rape, hunger and thirst, believing they would be granted asylum in a country that would protect them. No human being is illegal and no one should be treated like this, especially vulnerable children. The US Government is violating its international responsibilities. It is disappointing but not entirely surprising that it is now also removing itself from the UN Human Rights Council.

US Government officials have claimed they are being forced to break up families to follow the law, but legal experts believe these claims are false and that there are currently no legal statutes that mandate the separating of children from families at the US border. It appears to many that President Trump's Administration is using the issue as a way of somehow pressurising Democrats into pushing through immigration reform legislation which includes funding for his border wall which clearly neither the Mexican people or Government will fund. The Minister must also express Ireland's opposition to this policy of separation and the caging of children directly with the US Government.

There is also a responsibility on us to review our own immigration policies. Ireland's direct provision system is clearly a gross violation of people's human's rights and should be dismantled immediately. Many people have been languishing in this repressive system for years and we need to replace it with a new system that will have human rights and the protection of human dignity at its core. A regularisation scheme for undocumented immigrants in Ireland should also be introduced. Migrant Rights Centre Ireland estimates that between 20,000 and 26,000 undocumented immigrants, including children and families, are living and working in Ireland. Regularisation would not just be the smart thing to do, it would also be the right thing to do. No young child should have to grow up here in fear and undocumented, with no rights and no supports. These workers and their families should have the right to move from the shadows into the open. The undocumented and their families should have the chance to live in dignity and safety, free from the awful worry of the unexpected knock on the door in the middle of the night that tells them that they are to be placed in custody with the possibility of being put on an aeroplane to God knows where.

While we rightly condemn the US Government's inhumane and cruel immigration policies, collectively we need to commit to creating a more humane refugee and immigration system in Ireland.

It is welcome that time has been given to make statements on this extremely important issue. As other Members said, we condemn the actions taken. It is unbelievable in this day and age to see such actions being taken by what we deem to be a western country. It has been estimated that 2,342 children were separated from their parents along the US-Mexican border between 5 May and 9 June, or in a little more than a month. It is very distressing and disturbing to watch the images and I am sure any Member who is a parent feels the same way. One immediately thinks of one's own children and the panic the parents must be experiencing in not knowing where their children are located. I cannot even begin to think what it must be like. We need to condemn it in the strongest possible terms and send a very clear message that it is completely unacceptable.

I understand the Tánaiste has said there might be some news coming from Washington D.C. The Administration has been embarrassed significantly on the international stage and perhaps intends to draw back on its actions, but I fear that it may be a temporary measure because three months ago the US Office of Refugee Resettlement stated it was ending its funding of a particular programme that ran emergency shelters and foster care programmes for younger children and pregnant teenagers arriving in the United States as unaccompanied minors. It transferred all of the children to other facilities and gave no explanation for doing so, but obviously it was planning its current policy.

While we are discussing children who find themselves in extremely difficult circumstances, as well as very vulnerable children, we should also be mindful of children in Palestine and Syria, as well as all unaccompanied minors in Europe. It is not good enough for us to single out one country. The issue is topical and we all are completely distressed and shocked by what is happening and condemn it, but we also need to ensure we will look after and stand up for children in all parts of the world. In that regard, we do not have a good history, given the way we have treated children in this country - Deputy Seán Crowe referred to direct provision centres and the fact that there are children in very difficult circumstances in this as well as other countries - but when it comes to issues in other places such as Palestine and Syria, we need to ensure we treat all children equally and condemn what is happening. I hope the international outrage expressed about its actions will embarrass the US Government and that it will row back on them. We need to be as strong on this issue as we are on all issues concerning children, regardless of where they are in world, including our own country.

To see children being forcibly separated from parents and guardians and put in cages like animals and hear their cries for help was shocking. How anyone could defend it is beyond me. The actions taken, and the accompanying rhetoric from the American President and his defenders in politics, public life and the American media, are an indication that that society has morally lost its way. The defenders of this practice have sought to normalise it in the way people sought to normalise fascism in pre-war Europe, but it is not only in America where we are seeing a decent into nativism and xenophobia and a rise in fascism.

In recent weeks we saw a betrayal of what could be described as core European values when a boat carrying hundreds of migrants and refugees on board was turned away from numerous European countries. In Italy we saw the far right government launching an attack on migrants and now on the Roma people. The Hungarian Government has submitted a proposal for a tax on an organisation that supports or portrays migration positively. Only two weeks ago in London we saw xenophobes and hate-filled racists rioting in support of Tommy Robinson. That the media normalise this behaviour and its proponents had their establishment defenders in politics should be a warning to us all. Such normalisation has also happened in this state. The well-known right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins appeared on "The Late Late Show", while the American right-wing commentator Ann Coulter has appeared on Today FM. The Irish Times published an alt-right article by Nicholas Pell. That is how fascism was normalised, how minds are manipulated and how evil grows.

I cannot criticise America without rightly criticising the direct provision system. It is abhorrent and should be dismantled. Those who established it should apologise to the people whose lives they have destroyed. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland estimates that mental health problems are up to five times higher among those living in direct provision accommodation than in the wider community. Mothers have tried to have their children placed in care to get them out of direct provision centres. While we are right to criticise what is happening in America, we need to get our own house in order. I reiterate that every party that has supported the direct provision system or failed to act on it should apologise to the people whose lives they have destroyed.

At least 50 million people died in the Second World War during which entire towns and cities were reduced to rubble and millions of people across Europe and elsewhere were displaced. One of the greatest mass movements of people took place in the aftermath of that conflagration, but from the ashes of that catastrophe, a new international order was built. Under the guiding hand of one remarkable woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written. It has been a beacon of light and hope for oppressed peoples across the world ever since.

For 60 years national governments and non-governmental organisations have been engaged in a painstaking process of building a durable system of international law and human rights protection. That international system is far from perfect. In the area of foreign affairs we engage in diplomacy. Sometimes our ambassadors, Ministers or Deputies have to bite their tongue as they deal with rulers in oppressive regimes. However, we engage with authoritarian countries for a purpose, in the hope that over time we can bring them with us into a global system that respects human rights. While engaging in respectful diplomacy, we also criticise abuses and exert whatever pressure we can to get regimes to comply with international norms.

Despite its flaws, the United Nations' human rights system has provided guidance and moral authority in helping to bring more countries towards a stable rule of law, international co-operation and respect for human rights. Increasing numbers of countries hold genuinely democratic elections and when democracy becomes imbedded, elected governments tend to be more responsive to the needs and concerns of their peoples about human rights. Advancing human rights and international law is a long-term project. It requires optimism, a vision of a better future and a commitment to honour the principles of human rights and to play by the rules, even when the going gets tough.

Yesterday, in the 60th year since the Universal Declaration of Human Rghts was signed, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Ms Nikki Haley, called the UN Human Rights Council a “cesspool of political bias" and the United States of America withdrew from the Council. This hugely regrettable and short-sighted move provides the context for a number of policies of the current US regime. The immigration policies we see playing out along the border between the United States and Mexico are a prime example of a failure to have vision and to adhere to commitments. The commitment to protect human rights is not something to be abandoned lightly. Despite all of the setbacks in the past 60 years, one thing we have learned is that there is no alternative on offer. There is no international order other than what has been developed over time within a set of international rules and ethically based international systems.

It is sad to see some of our partner countries in the European Union erecting barriers to keep out migrants and asylum seekers, including those who are fleeing war, torture and persecution in Syria and elsewhere.

The Missing Migrants Project estimates that 3,116 people died or went missing in their attempt to reach Europe in 2017. Most of these deaths involve desperate people seeking to cross the Mediterranean Sea. When compared with the number of people who arrived in Europe, it means one person died or went missing for every 60 people who landed in Europe. These desperate people have a one in 60 chance of dying en route to Europe. In a leaky boat and on a journey for which they have borrowed money or have been charged their life savings, they have involved themselves in a game of Russian roulette in the hope of a better future.

The people fleeing to Europe are desperate. While some of them are economic migrants who are desperately anxious for a better life and some migrants may ultimately be sent home, at all times we must maintain a minimum threshold of decency. We must maintain a minimum standard of behaviour in how we treat people who take these incredibly hazardous journeys. That minimum standard is known as human rights. This is our responsibility, as Irish legislators, Europeans and human beings. For this reason, Ireland should abolish its failed system of direct provision and allow asylum seekers here to work and cook their own meals, as a basic recognition of human rights.

These human rights standards apply equally to the United States of America in how it treats its migrants. For a country whose economic dominance on the world stage is built so obviously and so significantly on the efforts of migrants, it is unconscionable that the US is breaking the most basic laws of human decency by removing children from their parents in an obscene attempt to deter people from seeking to cross the border in the first place. I cannot think of anything more obscene than a country using the threat of removing a person's children to discourage attempts to cross the border.

The US is not alone in facing the challenge of mass migration. Ireland understands that challenge all too well, both as a nation that has sent its people to the far corners of the world and as a State that has seen unprecedented levels of inward migration over the past 20 years. Ireland has benefited enormously from the contributions made by the migrant communities that have made the country their home. The United States of America has, even more demonstrably, also enjoyed those benefits. In engaging in this so-called zero tolerance policy against migrants on its southern border, the United States of America is not just creating unimaginable trauma for thousands of children and their parents, it is working against the spirit and letter of the law of internationalism that has built up over the last 60 years.

What is the alternative? Are the nations of the world to pull up the drawbridge and ignore the plight of our brothers and sisters from around the world? The Labour Party is a proud member of the Party of European Socialists and the Socialist International. We are committed to a global system that recognises the human rights of every person and works towards the fulfilment of those rights. As part of that, we recognise that many of the problems from which people are fleeing - war, drought caused by global warming and economic ruin - can be traced to the failures and inequalities of the global economic system. The solution to mass migration is not for us to fortify our borders but to work with local people to accelerate the social and economic development of all countries in line with the world's sustainable development goals and human rights norms and commitments to which Ireland is committed.

For a long time, we have heard of the need for a Marshall Plan for Africa. We have spoken of a real and genuine support base for countries that need such a plan, but it has not materialised. It must be delivered now.

For those reasons, and more, and to preserve the basic decency of the world’s human rights system, the Labour Party endorses the motion condemning the abhorrent treatment of human beings on the border of the United States of America, and we hope the policy will speedily end.

A parent will do anything for his or her child and anything to make the child's life easier. We live in a grossly unfair world in which wealth is sucked like a magnet to the top and the eight men control the same amount of wealth as 3.5 billion people. People from countries that are ravaged by poverty and war will, just like us, do anything for their children. They will take huge risks such as crossing a border into the United States or they will cross the Mediterranean Sea in a dinghy in the dark. People who are unlucky enough to be born into parts of the world ravaged by imperialism now face the absolute barbarism such as that exemplified by Trump and his approach to migrants. They face tactics reminiscent of those practised under fascism. A parent's biggest fear is to be separated from his or her child. Imagine the terror of separation of a child locked in a cage in a gulag, exposed to all sorts of physical, sexual and other abuse.

The Government must decide if Ireland will break decisively with Trump on this issue and with unjust immigration policies in general. The Irish establishment is already part of an EU bloc that is silent on the issue of the plundering resources in the Third World and then turning away its victims through a fortress Europe policy.

Ireland operates a system of direct provision. While the effect is not the same as the US system, the intent is the same, namely, to discourage migrants from seeking a better life in Ireland. These are the new policies of capitalism.

Trump's terror campaign against migrants was signalled at the beginning of his election campaign. These are not un-American values; they are written into the history of America with the Trail of Tears, the actions against Native Americans and slavery. It is not as if children have not been separated from parents before this.

On his election, Donald Trump made it clear that undocumented immigrants would be a key target. He used lies against Mexicans and stirred up a climate of terror against many of the undocumented Irish in the US. While there were deportations under Presidents Bush and Obama, these recent actions have raised the terror a notch.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is hugely feared in the United States. Immigration is obviously essential to capitalism in driving down wages and conditions for all workers and immigration is vital to divide workers. Under Trump, however, racism is being stirred up, encouraged and brought out into the open from under rocks. Only slightly more disturbing than seeing children mistreated in this way was to read some of the comments posted on Facebook under pictures of some of these children in cages. I will read some of them in order that we can realise the effect of Trump and what he has brought out in the US. These comments are by some racist people in the US who feel emboldened to come out. Under a picture of a child in a cage one comment says, "I want to order one to do laundry". Another commented, "I will give you 50 bucks for it, can it paint a living room?" I could go on.

If a Rubicon has been crossed, even by Trump, a debate on the issue in the Dáil is very welcome. It is welcome that we are passing a motion condemning his actions but it must go further. Ireland should immediately withdraw any invitation to Trump to visit this State. If the Taoiseach proceeds with the invitation, it will not be in our name. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade should also bear those comments in mind if any consideration is being given to visiting the US for another bowl of shamrock next St. Patrick's Day. I appeal to ordinary people to join the protests tomorrow outside the US embassy. There will be one at 4 p.m., called by Amnesty International, and another at 5 p.m., called by United Against Racism.

I would send all of our encouragement and solidarity to the ordinary people of all colours in America who have taken action against Trump, for example, when he enforced a Muslim travel ban. I encourage them to do the same in respect of this horrific policy.

Tearing children away from their parents and incarcerating them in cages is, as we all understand, barbaric and beyond the Pale. It crosses every line of human rights and civilised behaviour imaginable. What will we do about a president like Trump who is willing to do this to children and then defend it? Like me, the Tánaiste probably heard spokespeople on the radio defending Trump's actions, blaming the parents and saying that, although it was unfortunate, it had to be done to deter these terrible people from entering the United States illegally. It was shocking. When people's morality or values get twisted to the point of being willing to justify this kind of abuse against children, they are crossing normal lines.

This is not just a polite difference of political opinion. Something has to be done about it. Words of condemnation are welcome but, frankly, we know that they mean nothing to Trump. Trump is completely immune to criticism. He is willing to go to any length. It does not bother him in the least that his racist policies directed against immigrants - Muslims, Mexicans and so on - have stoked up the fascist far right in the United States and across the world. I watched a programme on Netflix during the week where the neo-Nazis who organised the Charlottesville horrors said openly that Trump had given them a new confidence to organise on a national scale and had given credibility to their neo-Nazi ideas. They are delighted with him. When we start making comparisons with the 1930s, it is not left-wing scaremongering. It is the reality, and one that is developing across Europe. The far right in Europe is encouraged by the sorts of action that Trump is taking.

There is a point at which normal diplomatic discourse, debate, niceties and politeness do not work and one must take a stand. Those of us who oppose racism, the far right, fascism and this barbaric treatment of children must say that we will do something about it because what we are facing in this instance is different. We must confront that point. It is fantastic that, notwithstanding all of our political differences, no political party in this Parliament has gone down the race road or played the race card, but let us go further and do something about this. That something is to make it clear that President Trump and people who are a party to this barbaric policy are not welcome in our country while they continue with that policy.

The Taoiseach said that we had to engage, as if this was a case of normal political differences. It is not. Frankly, what he said smacked of double standards. I have asked the Tánaiste to meet the elected representatives in Gaza, but he will not do it. What have they done that Trump has not? In fact, what Trump is doing is worse, but as far as the Tánaiste and Taoiseach are concerned, it is okay to boycott the elected representatives of the Parliament in Gaza. The Tánaiste will say that it is a difficult and complicated situation, mention Israel and so on. He can give all the reasons he likes, but the Government is treating them differently from how it is treating Trump even though what he is doing is far worse and more dangerous. Despite that, we continue to extend the normal diplomatic niceties to a person who is doing these barbaric and horrific things to young people and who is stirring up the most dangerous political forces that we have seen since the horrors of the 1930s and all that followed from them.

I am saying in all seriousness that this is different and, therefore, actions must follow. We should withdraw the invitation to Trump and consider other actions that would have an impact and make it clear that this is not just a polite difference of opinion, but that we are horrified and unwilling to stand idly by while these horrific, racist policies directed at immigrants, most of all children, are allowed by the international community to continue.

Next is Deputy Wallace, who is sharing time with Deputy Clare Daly.

It is not easy for a small country to influence much of what happens in the world, but being small does not mean that we are not entitled to a voice. We have a right and a responsibility to speak for justice worldwide. We should be neutral.

Obviously, having a large and powerful army makes a country powerful. Likewise, controlling much of the world's big business makes a country powerful, as does having unlimited access to money. We can bow to that power or we can retain our voice by insisting on speaking out.

Today is the sixth anniversary of Julian Assange being locked up in the Ecuadorian embassy. He has now been denied communications and the Internet. He has been denied sunlight for six years. A person in direct provision in Maghaberry would probably have an easier time of it, yet we say nothing about it. At the same time, Hillary Clinton is in Ireland this week to be honoured by Trinity College. She is responsible for the deaths of thousands, yet she is being honoured here when we will not speak up for someone like Julian Assange who has highlighted how large countries operate, set about going to war and carry out untold destruction.

It is good that we are having this debate. I have given the Tánaiste credit previously. I have more respect for his take on these matters than I had for that of many of his predecessors. It is terrible that children are being separated from their parents, but it is even more terrible to drop bombs on their homes and wipe them out altogether. Numerous parties in the House have allowed Shannon Airport to be used for US military purposes. The destruction that the US military has caused in the Middle East and elsewhere is beyond horrific. We talk about facilitating and accepting refugees into Ireland, operating the direct provision system better and pulling people out of the sea in the Mediterranean, but why do people become refugees? At the last count, 33 million people had become refugees because of war, the majority of which was driven by the US military. We allow it to use Shannon Airport to facilitate its efforts. In God's name, will the Government reconsider? We have to stop because it is wrong and horrific.

The argument that has often been put to me is that we cannot push the US military out of Shannon Airport because we might lose jobs and it might affect American investment in Ireland. Let us make up our minds about what we want. In Obama's eight years in power, he dropped an average of 36,000 bombs per year.

Believe it or not, Trump has not got up to those numbers yet, but I am sure he will not be long getting there. There were 36,000 bombs a year for eight years under Obama. What did we say about it? Was that okay? It is terrible to separate kids from their parents but it was okay to support Obama's effort to drop 36,000 bombs per year. Where was our voice? It does not stack up. We need to become a neutral, independent, small country again with a voice of our own. We do not have to shoot anybody, drop bombs on anyone, encourage anyone or participate in it. We just need a voice because it can make a difference.

Sometimes, the hypocrisy in here is utterly astounding. We are here today with a specially scheduled debate to discuss the inhumanity of US immigration policies. On World Refugee Day, when thousands of migrants are sitting rotting in detention centres all over Europe, when thousands of migrants sit in direct provision here, down the road, when migrants are being delivered back to rape, torture, imprisonment, extortion and kidnapping in Libya-----

-----by European boats in Operation Sophia in which the Irish Defence Forces participate, on a day in which migrants are shot with rubber bullets as they try to climb barbed wire in Europe, have we lost our minds? Everybody with half a heart or a shred of humanity would support the motion before the House today and I am as happy as anybody else to condemn the hideousness of the American Government's policy of separating migrant children from their parents, very deliberately, with maximum cruelty.

We condemn absolutely the US policy of locking migrants up in cages but let us not take our eye off the ball. Migrants are being locked up in cages in Europe too. A joint report by the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam last year talked about refugees landing in Greece and being kept in cages behind barbed wire. Conditions in European detention centres are so bad that refugees have sewn up their lips, gone on hunger strike and set themselves on fire to protest the inhumanity of their conditions.

Let us discuss actions we will be involved in. Next week, on 28 and 29 June, the EU is to debate proposals to expand the network of detention centres in Libya and to expand the arbitrary detention of vulnerable people in warehouses run by militias where torture is rife, all of which is paid for by the EU. We have some neck to condemn the behaviour of the US in that context when we have been so culpable ourselves. Deputy Wallace is right that it is a bit sickening to listen to elements of the media and the political establishment who have been silent on the role of the US military in making people refugees in the first place but who are now ochoning their treatment when they end up on US shores. It is disgraceful and sickening. We do not have the time to deal with the conditions in some of the camps of Europe but they are there. We have no standing to criticise the United States. We are just as bad. One could say that we are worse in some ways because we have the hypocrisy and pretence of thinking that Europe is somehow different.

Deputy Wallace is right to highlight that today is the sixth anniversary of the arbitrary detention of Julian Assange. I hand it to Europe here that the United States is in a league of its own when it comes to prosecuting people who threaten to get in the way of that country's pursuit of endless and profitable war. Julian Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy for six years, denied any form of serious human contact, with no Internet, no outdoor air, no phone calls and no visits, except from his lawyers, once a month for the past three months. He faces prosecution under the Espionage Act and could potentially spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement in a US prison. His crime is being a journalist who has upset the United States. As Human Rights Watch points out, any extradition or prosecution of Assange under the Act will open the door for similar prosecutions of other publications and journalists in the US who dare to upset that country's Government. Assange has agreed to surrender himself to British police only if he is guaranteed against extradition, which the UK will not give.

We should be leading the charge on this with regard to arbitrary detention, solitary confinement and appalling treatment of refugees on World Refugee Day. We have plenty to do. If we are serious about taking on the US with regard to how it deals with migrants, let us do it by ending, once and for all, its use of Shannon, which has contributed so shamefully to the deaths and permanent separation of so many children from their families across the world.

The forceful separation of children from their families distresses us all. Having one's children removed in what is quite often already a traumatic situation is every parent's nightmare. What I find deeply objectionable is the nauseating political opportunism and virtue signalling that this motion represents. Let us not kid ourselves. If the policy was still being pursued by President Barack Obama, we would not hear a word about it. I say that because the policy that the current United States Government is enforcing has been in place since at least 2010 when the US Office of Refugee Resettlement's, ORR, division of unaccompanied children's services requested public applications to provide temporary shelter, care and related services to the children in the ORR's custody. What outcry was there then? Instead we had deafening silence.

It has been reported that, according to the non-profit immigrant advocacy group, the American Immigration Council, the trend in growing deportation numbers is a policy that has been pursued by the US federal Government for nearly two decades. It also notes that while the policy campaign precedes the Obama Administration by many years, it grew intensely during his tenure in the White House. Where was the outrage then? This motion, while speaking to a genuine human rights tragedy, is nothing short of political points scoring at its worst.

When hundreds of thousands of Christians and Muslim minorities were forcibly separated from their families, as Deputies Wallace and Clare Daly referred to, through rape, murder, slavery and genocide, I could not get a debate in this House to agree to spend time condemning it in a cross-party motion despite four years of attempts to do so. The genocide got a triple Topical Issue matter from the Ceann Comhairle on Holy Thursday evening, which was very appropriate. It could not get a debate here. No side would agree to it.

As we speak, countries that we continue to trade with such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are engaged in blatant and violent human rights violations. As Human Rights Watch observed in its 2018 report, Saudi Arabia is the leader of the nine-nation coalition that began military operations in Yemen on 26 March 2015. It has committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law. Where has been the outcry? As of November this year, at least 5,295 civilians have been killed and 8,873 wounded, according to the UN human rights office, although the actual civilian casualty count is likely to be much higher. In 2017, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that airstrikes remained the single largest cause of civilian casualties. Where was our motion on that issue and what happened to us in here that we sat silent, did not open our mouths and did not make any efforts to raise this anywhere? The fact is that this Dáil is being asked to support this motion while it stays silent on the atrocious human rights crimes being committed by people it considers its partners.

The US Department of Homeland Security, DHS, has issued clarifications in the past two days on a number of myths that have been doing the rounds. The first myth is that the DHS has a policy to separate families at the border. The fact is that the DHS does not have a blanket policy of separating families at the border. It has a responsibility to protect all minors in its custody. This means the DHS will separate adults and minors under certain circumstances. These circumstances include when the DHS is unable to determine the family relationship. If there is a reason to question the claimed familial relationship between an adult and child, it is not appropriate to detain adults and children together, for obvious reasons.

If there is reason to suspect the purported or alleged parent or legal guardian of human trafficking or smuggling, the DHS detains the adult in an appropriate, secure detention facility, separate from the minor. The DHS continues to see instances and intelligence reports indicating minors are trafficked by unrelated adults posing as a family in an effort to avoid detention. Are we going to allow that?

If there is reason to suspect the purported parent or legal guardian poses a safety risk to the child, for example, suspected child abuse, it is not appropriate to detain the adult and child together. If an adult is referred for criminal prosecution, the adult will be transferred to the custody of US Marshals Service and any children will be classified as an unaccompanied alien child and transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. The DHS also notes that in recent months there has been a staggering increase in the number of illegal aliens using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the United States. From October 2017 to February 2018, there was a 315% increase in the number of cases of adults with minors fraudulently posing as family units to gain entry. Do we want to support or condone that? Will any of those facts be heard in the current anti-Trump frenzy? I fear not.

I wish to share with Deputy Michael Healy-Rae.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I deplore the separation of immigrant children from their parents. That goes against the grain of humane behaviour. I would not condone it and I deplore it. We are depending on the same Government led by President Trump to be lenient with Irish immigrants to the US who have played a major part in building America since the 1700s when many of our forefathers went there on the coffin ships in the hope that they would survive. Many of them lived and they played a great part in building that great country, the United States. We all have relatives there today. We appeal to President Trump to be lenient with illegal immigrants from Ireland who continue to work there. We hope they will be provided with some mechanism to allow them to come home for weddings and funerals, as it breaks their hearts when they miss such events. They cannot come back here, because if they did, they could not go back to their jobs again. We hope President Trump will do something for them.

There has been much bashing of President Trump since his election, although many people voted for him. He has played a vital role in neutralising Korea. A few of our Ministers wanted to go there to sort it out but perhaps they will stay at home and do something here instead. It appears that President Trump has alleviated that threat to world peace. We must give him a chance in that regard. We appeal to him not to separate children from their parents.

I thank the Tánaiste for what he did last night. I accept it was his own personal view, but he is a leading member of the Government. It is only right that we should all show our outrage at what is happening in terms of parents and children being separated. Whatever one's viewpoint on immigration and however tough or lenient a position one takes, in anyone's normal psyche it is wrong to think about separating young children from their mothers and fathers. It is just not proper behaviour. It is not right. One can have arguments and policies or one can engage in diplomacy but one should not separate small children from their parents. For God's sake, that is totally wrong. I thank the Tánaiste personally for what he did last night because he highlighted the situation from an Irish point of view. Everybody who has spoken here today to express outrage at what is happening is right to do so.

That said, I accept we must have rules, regulations and immigration controls. One issue I would like to see highlighted in this debate is how we deal with immigrants to this country. One thing I do not agree with is the fact that people who come here seeking asylum are not allowed to work. That goes against the grain completely if people are strong, fit, healthy enough and able to work. If people are willing to give them gainful work, for God's sake why not let them work? There is a lot of controversy going on about the issue currently in that the Government introduced a mechanism to allow asylum seekers to work, but they have been tied up in so many knots that it is not practicable and they are not able to get work. It is inhumane of us to have people in direct provision accommodation and saying to them that the one thing they cannot do is work. That is wrong. If people have work for them, for God's sake we should allow them to work because the right to work is a basic dignity. I refer to the ability to get up in the morning, roll up our sleeves, go out and do a day's work for somebody.

I wish to share time with Deputy Catherine Martin.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the motion. It has been deeply disturbing to see the reports and footage emanating from the US in recent weeks.

I begin by echoing the points made by a number of previous speakers and unreservedly condemning the policy choices by the Trump Administration that have led to this appalling situation. Children are being forcibly taken from their parents and kept in cages with foil for blankets. Immigration officers are being told not to comfort or hold distressed children. Parents are not being told when, or indeed if, they will be reunited with their children before they are deported. The United States, which is a developed nation with which we share historically strong links, is engaging in the deliberate traumatisation and abuse of children to deter immigration and asylum seeking. By any stretch of the imagination that can only be called torture and it is unconscionable.

Many commentators have surmised that this may be Trump's Katrina moment, the point where the horror of the images and reports clash so irreversibly with the justifications being proffered by the Administration that his supporters will finally have enough. However, I am unsure if that will be the case. Since November 2016 we have seen example after example of the Trump Administration, cravenly backed by a seemingly spineless Republican Party, pander to the worst characteristics of middle America. The cruelty and inhumanity we are now seeing in those detention camps is the direct outworking of the toxic idea that was sold to his supporters in the run-up to the presidential election. The idea that reducing the number of foreign-born people in the United States will make native born Americans richer and safer was a lie then and it is a lie now. What Trump is selling his supporters with this brutalising policy is the idea that cracking down on immigration and suffering condemnation of so-called elites demonstrates his dedication to being on their side. What was once a dog whistle for white nationalists has now been replaced by unabashed xenophobia. We can no longer give credence to the idea that the majority of Trump supporters voted for him in 2016 because of economic insecurity. Let us make no mistake, these policies have support and the outrage of Democrats, so-called cultural elites and foreign governments make his supporters even more sure of their correctness. US political discourse has become a toxic zero-sum game of winners and losers.

That a country whose political culture was once an example to the rest of the democratic world could have unravelled and debased itself in such a short timeframe is a stark warning to us all.

The net effect of Trump's shocking xenophobia can be seen in the emboldening of racists and right-wing populists closer to home. Political leaders in Hungary, Italy, Poland and other European states have drawn inspiration from Trump's immigration policies. We ourselves are not immune and it would be remiss of me not to mention our own appalling legacy in the form of direct provision. I reiterate my call from last week that this system be closed down.

I repeat my call from yesterday that representatives from the US embassy be summoned by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and that the sentiments expressed in this debate be made very clear to them and relayed to Washington. In particular, I ask Ministers, some of whom enjoy a very close relationship with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Paul Ryan, to express their abhorrence of these policies. I do not believe that the Trump Administration can be shamed or embarrassed into action because the man leading it is incapable of shame, it would seem. If the Republican Party, however, has any shred of decency left or any respect for the functioning of US democracy, it cannot allow this appalling situation to continue.

Due to President Donald Trump’s Administration’s zero tolerance border policy, all people crossing the US-Mexico border illegally, even those seeking asylum, face criminal prosecution. The US Department of Homeland Security claims that between mid-April and May of this year it has separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents after they crossed the Mexico border into the US. That equates to 65 children being split from their parents each day for the past six weeks. More than 100 of these children were under the age of four. Parents were told that their children were being taken for a bath or being taken away briefly for questioning. It took hours for parents to realise their children had been taken away indefinitely. One father died by suicide in a detention cell the night after his three year old child was physically ripped out of his arms. One mother had her child taken from her while she was nursing and she was placed in handcuffs when she tried to protest. Children are being held for weeks and months in cages and there are reports that parents who choose to return across the border cannot find their children.

None of these children in Trump’s America will have a parent with them to protect them from the sickening reality of being caged en masse, alone and terrified, sleeping under foil blankets in a foreign land for months, if not years, on end. The only crime their parents committed was to try to escape from persecution and poverty and make a better life for their children. We have all heard the audio clip of children in a US Customs and Border Protection facility obtained by ProPublica. We have heard the children crying, in terrible distress, calling out for their parents and we have heard border patrol agents joking and laughing at them. The cries I heard on that clip, the young cries of "Mama" and "Papa", will haunt me as they will haunt us all. As a mother, it is haunting and truly frightening to hear these cries, the cries of frightened children, some no more than four years old, calling for their parents, aunts or relatives, alone, abandoned, surrounded by unfriendly faces in an unfriendly country and treated without dignity, respect, compassion or the most basic forms of human decency.

There are no words strong enough to condemn the despicable actions of an Administration that would be willing to do this. This is coming from an Administration whose defence of these actions has been one of wild and fanciful evasion. President Trump has declared that the US is withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, calling it a “hypocritical and self-serving” body that “makes a mockery of human rights”and “a cesspool of political bias”. There is absolutely no remorse from this President and no regret for the pain inflicted. The most basic and fundamental aspects of what we term human rights are being eroded in word and deed by an Administration full of hate, bile and vicious anger towards the most vulnerable of human beings.

The EU is not blameless or innocent either. We cannot pretend that the EU does not have its own deterrence policies. The EU, including Ireland, is spending €180 million in Libya to deter migrants from making a journey that has drowned thousands in the Mediterranean Sea, including 784 people so far this year alone. The US treats people like cattle, while we in Europe treat them like cargo. Let the US be a warning to us. Let us end direct provision and use our influence here in Ireland to prevent the EU from following further the same poisonous route which comes only to one known end - children in cages and sinking boats labelled as “infestation” by demagogues like Trump.

That concludes the discussion-----

I wish to state for the record, if I may, that I made contact with the most senior US diplomat in the US embassy to make it clear why this debate was taking place. A number of Deputies asked that we would do so and the Taoiseach said it would be done. I spent about 40 minutes on the phone today expressing the concern of this House on the issues that have been raised.

Question put and agreed to.