Lost amid the headlines about the ongoing impeachment process in Washington is news that President Trump recently planted another woefully unfit puppet at the top of a federal agency.
Chad Wolf was not confirmed to lead the Department of Homeland Security. He couldn’t be — even a Senate as polarized as this one would have rejected him. Instead, they confirmed him for a lesser role, the undersecretary of the agency’s Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, clearing the way for Trump to then declare him the acting secretary of the entire department to fill a leadership vacancy.
This end-run maneuver has become commonplace under this administration, and it sidesteps the checks and balances that our founders set in place to prevent people like Chad Wolf from ever attaining positions of power.
This situation is personal to me, because Wolf’s transgressions strike directly at my own life’s story. I came to the United States from Guatemala when I was just 5 years old. I was too young to understand the violence and poverty around me in the city of Escuintla, where I was born, but old enough that I still remember the gut-wrenching decision my parents made to send me away to safety with my uncle.
There was no security where we lived — survival was a matter of beating the odds. One day, gunmen began firing randomly at our car, and only stopped when they saw there was a small child — me — inside. We were lucky that nobody was hit and that the shooters relented, but my parents decided I couldn’t stay in case that luck ever ran out.
America’s promise of safe haven is largely the same today as it was then, but Trump and his cronies are doing their best to change that. We’re still a shining city on a hill to oppressed peoples around the world, but now this administration is trying to price people out of coming here, proposing an 83 percent hike in application fees for people trying to become American citizens from $640 to $1,170, and even trying to charge people for seeking asylum for the first time ever.
When I arrived here in the years following the civil rights movement, our nation was striving to overcome the racism that had plagued our society from the Constitution’s three-fifths compromise to the institution of Jim Crow laws. Now racism guides our immigration policy at the White House through Trump’s immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, whose promotion of content from white nationalist websites was revealed in leaked emails earlier this month.
And while diversity is still what makes our nation strong, we’re now led by a president who is trying to kick 700,000 young people out of the country by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and who, in his very first campaign speech, smeared some aspiring Americans as rapists and criminals.
And yet, even among the members of Donald Trump’s immigration administration, Chad Wolf is different. When confronted about his role in helping form Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy in June, Wolf denied having a role in its development, saying the direction was given through an executive order and the attorney general’s policy.
But according to emails obtained by NBC, Wolf authored a memo for his boss, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, in December 2017 identifying the separation of family units as a policy option, among 15 others, to deter undocumented immigration.
Wolf has stated that it wasn’t his job to evaluate the morality of the proposals.
“My job wasn’t to determine whether it was the right or wrong policy,” Wolf told members of Congress. “My job, at the time, was to ensure that the secretary had all the information.”
Wolf did more than provide the secretary information, though. If he indeed authored the emails NBC obtained, he is someone who had a unique role in ultimately harming children.
If Wolf had taken one child away from his or her parents, he would be guilty of kidnapping, a felony that can carry a prison sentence that is usually 20 years or more. But Wolf didn’t take one child — he played a role in taking thousands from their parents. Callously. Systematically. And in a manner that helped this president instill fear into the heart of any desperate parent who dared look to the United States as a better place for their child to grow up.
The policy Wolf allegedly outlined led to the separation of so many families that we don’t even have an accurate count of all the needlessly orphaned kids victimized.
As journalist Elizabeth Stone once said, to be a parent is “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside of your body.” Wolf was involved in snatching those beating hearts from countless people, and our president rewarded him with a promotion to acting secretary of Homeland Security.
Get our free weekly newsletter
I might not be able to stop Wolf’s appointment, but I do have a message for him.
We are watching you. You are unfit for service. We know you have it within you to harm children because you already have had a hand in doing so, and we know you have no shame about it because you still show your face in public. You don’t deserve the trust of the American people, and you do not have it.