The Trump administration's extreme deportation policies (continuing, to be sure, on a path already laid down by President Obama) are back in the headlines again with the DHS's cruel and heartless deportation of a Honduran mother and her five-year old child were were seeking asylum in the US back to their gang-infested country under circumstances where the chances that they could be killed were very real.

This led to frantic efforts by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) to save the mother and child from deportation, and an angry retort from DHS Secretary John Kelly telling the Senator in effect to shut up and let the DHS get on with its program that could lead to deporting 11 million people.

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The lack of humanity of the Trump administration in its zeal to expel millions of mainly Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants from the United States as quickly as possible was anticipated by the great ancient Greek dramatist Euripides (ca. 480 - 406 B.C.) some 2,400 years ago (in 431 B.C.) in one of the most famous of all his works: Medea.

The deportation "proceeding", as Euripides describes it, is as follows:

Medea, a foreign-born woman who is married to Jason, a prominent Greek aristocrat and who therefore has legal resident status in the city of Corinth, Greece, is being divorced by her husband so that he can marry the daughter of the local tyrant, Creon, instead.

This causes such great anguish to Medea that the people around her are concerned, not only for her own mental stability and well-being, but for the safety of the two young children that she had with Jason and who are living together with her.

Just as Medea appears on stage to vent her own grief and frustration at being betrayed by her husband, in walks the tyrant Creon himself, who makes the following announcement to Medea:

"You, Medea, scowling with rage against your husband, I order you to leave this land and go into exile, taking your two children with you, and instantly! I am the executor of this decree and I will not return home again until I expel you from the country."

Medea, arguably anticipating American-style deportations in the 21st century A.D., immediately asks for a stay of deportation, which Creon grants, but only for one day.

She also points out that she is a non-criminal alien, (just as any good lawyer would no doubt have argued if she had had one), but Creon answers that he considers her a threat to public safety, specifically his own and his daughter's safety, due to Medea's anger over the breakup of her marriage. He adds:

"It is better for me to incur your hatred now, woman, than to be soft now, and regret it later."

Could there just possibly be a parallel between Creon's assumption that Medea is likely to commit a criminal act because of her circumstances, and the assumption of the Trump administration that entire classes of immigrants, such as 100 million Muslims from six Middle Eastern and African countries, or immigrants from Mexico and by extension all of Latin America, are likely to commit crimes if they are allowed to enter or stay in the United States merely because of their countries of birth or citizenship?

To add insult to injury, after this "hearing" is concluded, Jason himself appears on the scene after Creon has left, and makes the following helpful comment to Medea about how "fortunate" she was to have been married to him and to have gained lawful immigration status in Greece as a result:

"First, you now live among Greeks and not barbarians, and you understand justice and the rule of law...").

(It might not be out of place to add that the ancient Greeks might have used the word hubris to describe that statement, while a modern Israeli might well call it chutzpa!)

Be that as it may, whether the putting millions of non-criminal immigrants in fear of deportation and the threat of expelling many of them from the United States through expedited removal without the right to any hearing at all is an example of "justice and the rule of law" is a question that Euripides might well be asking if he were alive and writing dramas in America today.

As to what ultimately happened to Medea and her two children after Creon's deportation order was issued, anyone who is interested can read the play.

Hint: the outcome was not a good one, even worse for the children than the very real peril which might very well be awaiting the Honduran mother and child who have just been deported from Donald Trump's America back to one of the most violent and dangerous countries on earth.

Note: The above translations from the ancient Greek are by David Kovacs in the Loeb Classical Library edition: Euripides: Cyclops Alcestis Medea

Copyright (C) 1994, 2001 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, Roger has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants from diverse parts of the world receive work permits and green cards.

Roger also studied beginning ancient Greek at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. His email address is