There perhaps is no bond more sacred than that between parent and child. Yet each day the federal government – using your tax dollars and acting in your name – unnecessarily rips dozens of children from their parents on our southern border. This same government prevents contact between those children and parents for weeks. It’s a brutal, amoral policy that needs to end.
This policy began in April when the Trump Administration announced it would criminally charge anyone crossing the border who sought asylum rather than waiting to see if they qualify for protection. Since minors can’t sit in a federal jail with their parents, the children are labeled as “unaccompanied” and taken away. It’s a malicious perversion of the law, as asylum seekers only cross the border illegally if their petition for asylum is falsified.
And its effect – the separation of children from their parents – is simply inhumane.
Infants as young as a year old have been torn from their parents. One child was taken as her mother breastfed her. Many times the separation was done under under false pretenses, as Border Patrol agents told the parent her child would be gone briefly for questioning or for a bath. Screaming children have been ripped out of their parents’ arms. Sometimes Border Patrol agents have cruelly told parents that their families “would not exist anymore” and they would “never see their children again.”
Parents and children often are detained hundreds of miles apart with no regular contact. One mother seeking asylum has been separated from her 18-month-old son for two months. Many parents have no idea where their children are, or when they will see them again.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sends these children to warehouse-like centers. Among the most famous in recent weeks is an abandoned Walmart box store in Brownsville, Texas, that 1500 boys from ages 10 to 17 have been packed into. The White House now is considering building tent cities at military bases in the hot Texas sun for detaining children.
ICE and the Department of Homeland Security claim that these children will be reunited when their parents’ criminal cases are completed, but that isn’t always happening. The federal government doesn’t exactly have a system for bringing thousands of parents and children back together. In fact, some parents and small children even have been deported without the other present and without the other’s knowledge.
That such separation is traumatic goes without saying. Indeed, many detained children cry themselves to sleep at night. The psychological effects on these children will be long-lasting, whether it be severe separation anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
No law requires that asylum seekers or immigrant families be separated. The law does allow, however, for the separation of minors from adults who are not their parents or legal guardians in effort to stop human trafficking of children. But the vast majority of these children come from Central American families fleeing extreme violence in their country.
The sole purpose for this indecent policy is to reduce the flow of refugees and immigrants into the United States by creating fear. While there’s no evidence that such a method works, whether or not it does is irrelevant. Such a brutish policy has no place among a civilized people. Indeed, that’s why many conservatives have broken with the White House on this policy. Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt and evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez, as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, have criticized it as well. Indeed, as one Catholic organization pointed out, if ancient Egypt had practiced this policy, Jesus would have been separated from Mary and Joseph when fleeing Herod.
While immigration is a complex issue that Congress must address, forcing a solution by instituting this policy hardly is reasonable. The cruel treatment of children ought not to become a pawn in a political game.
President Trump could end this moral outrage in the same amount of time it takes him to write a tweet denigrating some actor or comedian. All he has to do is order a reversal of his policy. It’s that simple. The challenge then will be to reunite detained parents and children, a step ICE and DHS needs to address regardless if the policy is lifted or not.
Each of us in turn can encourage President Trump and Congress to end the separation of children and parents. We can write our representatives urging them to pass the Keep Families Together Act, which was introduced in Congress on June 8; the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids In Need of Defense, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Children’s Law Center, Young Center for Immigrant Rights, and the Women’s Refugee Commission all support the legislation. In addition, a number of online petitions addressed to Congress and President Trump can be signed. Several protests also are planned across the nation.
This ill-minded policy threatens to leave a stain of brutishness upon our great country. If we truly believe in the value and sanctity of family, none of us should tolerate another day of separation as American policy.
Photo credit: David Davies, via Wylio