Explaining the Cruel Child-Parent Separations in the US

“We are treating people less than human”. – Presidential historian Jon Meacham on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

That statement is not about North Korea. It is not about Russia, or the Phillipines, or Iran, or Syria, or other places that you might think of where the government is actively involved in human rights abuses. No, that statement is about the United States, once spoken by Ronald Reagan, as the ‘shining city on the hill’. How degraded has the US become that the nation built on immigrants now treats migrant parents and children as less than human?

If you’ve seen the pictures where children are sobbing – a 2 year old girl watching as her mother is frisked and then taken away is one heart-wrenching picture – and your heart didn’t make you feel something, then there is something wrong. The administration has been sending mixed messages about what is happening on the US-Mexico border so it is worth taking time to clear the air here:

  • This is not a law enacted by Congress. This is policy that was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and thus implemented with the approval of President Trump.
  • This is not a continuation of the practices of the Obama administration. This is entirely different from the “family detention centres” the previous admin used to hold families together while they waited for court hearings. Parents are being arrested and sent to federal prison to wait for court hearings while children are being held entirely separately in Walmart or tent cities (more on that down).
  • It is entirely false to suggest that only Congress can fix this. Since it was a policy started by the DOJ, DOJ can just as easily revoke it. Here are GOP senators pushing back on this:
    • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska.): “The secretary [of DHS], the attorney general they can move on this tomorrow”.
    • Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-West Virginia): “I think they have the latitude to make this decision.”
    • Sen. Mike Rounds: “most certainly” Trump can make “modifications”.
    • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C): “They can pick up the phone and change the policy.”

Trump and his administration have blamed their own policy on: the Democrats [Trump], Congress [DHS Sec. Nielsen], or they have claimed that no such policy exists. Other members of the administration, like AG Sessions or White House adviser Stephen Miller, are proudly owning the policy. In an interview given in 2017, now WH Chief of Staff John Kelly said that back then they were considering implementing such a policy. Some of them are craven enough to admit to such a horrific policy while others are bending over backwards to lie and conceal their complicity.

Some Democrats are so disgusted by Secretary Nielsen’s inconsistent statements as detailed above (first saying there was no such policy, then saying it was mandated by law, now saying we won’t apologize for it) that they are calling on her to resign. According to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the first for the call, “the government should be in the business of keeping families together, not tearing them apart. And the government should have a commitment to transparency and accountability. Under Secretary Nielsen’s tenure, the Department of Homeland Security has a track record of neither.” Her call was echoed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and 8 other Democrats in the House & Senate.

Why is there so much outrage? Because according to journalist Jacob Soboroff, children are being held in cages, like they’re hardened criminals or animals. These are children as young as a year old, two years old… and they’re being torn away from parents, usually the only people a child is close to in their preliminary years. Children are not allowed to hug each other or the people “taking care” of them. Reminder that most of these children cannot defend themselves – they’re not in their teens – and cannot even speak English.

The stories are horrific. Some parents don’t know where their children are for months at a time. Some parents fear getting deported without their kids. There is no system of tracking the kids and no plan for family reunification. One father, according to the Washington Post, committed suicide in a federal prison after being separated from his wife & son.

The outrage is bipartisan. Former First Lady Laura Bush, in a Washington Post op-ed, likened these detention facilities to the Japanese-Americian internment camps during the World War II, a dark period for the country, according to her. She called the policy “cruel” to the point that “it breaks my heart”. Republican senator Ted Cruz, who is among the most right-wing of senators & an anti-immigration hawk, is introducing legislation to stop family separations. Senate Democrats are all united on a bill that would end family separations, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. The House is an open question, on whether Speaker Paul Ryan introduces legislation on the floor that may not get a majority Republican support.

This policy is cruel and immoral, and it harms people who come here seeking safe shelter. The parents who come here, risking a dangerous journey with their kids, are fleeing violence. Many mothers are usually fleeing domestic violence situations. In fact, some people present themselves at the border seeking asylum and are being turned away. The Trump admin doesn’t just want to stop illegal immigration; they want to stop asylum seekers. Their rhetoric is dishonest.

Elections have consequences. The result of the 2016 election has resulted in this. Voters need to mobilize the give a message of stern warning to Donald Trump & the Republicans who support his agenda by voting them out this November.

 

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