I have not known a time the US lost all sense of compassion before today. And now we are living in one of the worst episodes of our recent history. How can anyone look at pictures of young children being torn from their parents, left to live in cages and not feel something has gone horribly wrong?
There is no other way to say this: It is inhumane to rip children away from their mothers and fathers; to tear siblings apart and place them in cages like animals, falling asleep with blankets made of aluminum foil.
For those who disagree – maybe you are the ones who shouldn’t be allowed in this “oh-so-great” country to begin with. I didn’t realize part of making America “Great” again included forcing families apart.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” crackdown on border security in early May – where all families illegally crossing the border would be separated, children removed, and their parents prosecuted as part of this “zero tolerance” policy.
Sessions stated during a recent speech that the United States “cannot take everyone on this planet, who is in a difficult situation.” Hearing this is like a shot to the heart. It’s a stinging feeling knowing the U.S. cares little to none about helping anyone simply for the sake of helping. Because yes, it isn’t possible to help every single person in a “difficult situation.” But should we not work to help as many of those people as possible? That’s how a compassionate nation functions – we have become a nation utterly lacking in that department.
And as we sit idly by, a Honduran man kills himself after U.S. Border Patrol separated him from his wife and 3-year-old son. A mother and daughter fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo are separated despite arriving legally as asylum seekers. Elsewhere, a Honduran woman’s child is ripped from her arms while breastfeeding.
As we sit idly watching, hundreds of thousands of immigrants residing here in the US fear for their families, communities, and livelihoods. Fear that they too will be added to the list of people separated from their families – deported in the blink of an eye – to score political points for a president who cares nothing about our own humanity – even when 66 percent of all Americans disagree with this policy.
This is not the first time the US has been at the forefront of a dehumanized immigration policy. We have an uncanny track record of demonizing black and brown bodies – from selling African slaves, to removing Native American children from their parents, to the forced internment of Japanese Americans during WWII – this cuts deep to the truth of the American experience.
It cuts to the point that this administration will seemingly do anything to erase the immigrant persona, even while its supposed greatness flows from its history of welcoming immigrants. When did we become a nation which values a policy position over the lives of innocent children and their families? When did we become a nation that is comfortable seeing images of children locked away in cages?
Then again, we are a country that values gun rights over the right of our own children to live in safety and security – so is this really that surprising?
The “zero tolerance” policy is meant to serve as a deterrent to families attempting to cross the border. Yet despite the threat of prosecution and family separation this policy poses, border arrests are only increasing. In May alone, there have been over 50,000 border arrests – a 160 percent increase from May 2017 – and the number of families attempting to cross the border illegally has increased by 435 percent from May 2017 – making this policy ineffective from the start.
And this isn’t only happening to those illegally crossing the border – there are instances where families are separated and individuals prosecuted even after following U.S. law by presenting themselves at ports of entry as asylum seekers. So what good is following the law if the outcome is inherently the same?
One can imagine that if the fear of forced separation isn’t enough to scare these families away – what they must be escaping in their own countries might not even pale in comparison. And now the cruelty with which these familial separations are carried out is a horror being undertaken on behalf of our nation – in our own name.
For instance, immigration enforcement officials have told parents their kids are going to wash up – when in fact they’re separating them for an undetermined period of time.
Associated Press reported, “One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.”
According to the American Association of Pediatrics, the current process of locking up children separately from their parents constitutes “government-sanctioned child abuse.” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has denounced the policy as a form of abuse.
“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” al-Hussein said.
According to a CNN report, more than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the Southern border between mid-April and today – at least 200 children have been separated from their families within the last two weeks.
Texas Rep. Will Hurd told CNN Newsroom the hardline policy on border control is “unacceptable.”
“We should not be using kids as a deterrent policy,” Hurd told CNN Newsroom. “If we have to separate kids from their parents, then we probably need to rethink our strategy on how we’re securing our country.”
Even conservative evangelicals like the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the conference and archbishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas, are speaking out against the issue. Graham called the policy “disgraceful,” and DiNardo released the following statement last week:
“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma…While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.” Even former First Lady Laura Bush voiced her disgust for The Trump administration’s policy.
“This zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” Bush told CNN.
The solution is not prosecution, arrest, or deportation for every single person or family crossing the border. And the solution is most definitely not ripping children from their parents. But that doesn’t mean we also have to be weak on border security and let anyone in who crosses illegally either.
We need a system that falls somewhere in-between and it must be humane – one that doesn’t involve warehousing immigrant children in converted Walmarts or forcing them to sleep in cages with foil blankets.
We have every right to worry that the wrong people may find their way across the border – but assuming each family attempting to make their way to the U.S. is a threat is ill-intentioned and an utter disgrace to American tradition. The U.S. prides itself on being a land of opportunity, equality, and justice. We pride ourselves on good morals, decency, and acceptance. But a zero-tolerance policy is none of those things when we greet families searching for sanctuary with something potentially worse than what they were running from.
Our country is using detained immigrant children as a ploy to deter illegal immigration. It’s blasphemous to come to terms with the fact that the American Dream of a house with a white picket fence is only attainable if your skin matches the color of that damned fence. Over and over again, black and brown bodies are brutally thrown to the wind in a country that pretends to welcome them, only to throw the idea of opportunity right back in their faces.
And that America, I can never forgive.
Cover Photo: Impacto