One of my earliest memories in life was an event where I was separated from my parents for a short time. I was about four years old and being babysat at my parents’ home just west of Eden. The babysitter, who was the daughter of a hired hand, decided to go to her parents’ home several miles away. I had never been separated from home like that and became fearful that I might not get back to my Mom and Dad.
By the time we got to the babysitter’s family home, I was scared and crying. I remember asking several times to be taken home. It turned out to be a fairly minor event but it left an impression on my memory. It came back to mind 70 years later when the Trump administration started separating kids from their parents at the Mexican border.
It is hard to imagine the very real fear and trauma suffered by the children of migrants fleeing for their lives from violence in Central American countries. Even though they may have been subjected to traumatic events at home, or on the long trek to the U.S. border, at least the kids had the comfort of being with their parents. Think of the added fear and trauma of being taken from their parents when they got to our border to ask for asylum. Everything in their detention is unfamiliar—the language, the people, the customs, the food, and the living conditions.
It wss disgraceful for our great country to take kids from their parents and send them to old Walmarts, or tent cities that have just sprung up in the desert, to spend weeks or months not knowing where their parents are or whether they will ever see them again. How low can we go? Isn’t this the country that professes to support fair play and family values?
The detention facility personnel are prohibited from touching the children so they can’t give comfort when the children are crying in distress. Some kids could end up like those children who were locked away in state orphanages during the Soviet era, deprived of human warmth and contact. Those kids ended up later in life being unable to relate to society. At least the boys in the converted Walmart are let out of confinement for two hours a day so they can see the outside world, just like inmates in our prisons.
If the parents were charged with felonies, like drug trafficking or aggravated battery, there would be grounds to incarcerate the parents and put the kids in foster care. But, most of the parents are only being charged with misdemeanors. Nevertheless, their kids were being ripped away and trundled off to who knows where. It would be like the State of Idaho taking away the kids of people charged with misdemeanor traffic offenses.
It is not a policy that the administration was forced by law to adopt. It was an optional policy specifically designed to discourage and punish asylum seekers. Targeting the children of people who are running for their lives to protect those kids from gang violence at home must have seemed like a master strategy. Hit them where it really hurts. Show them how ruthless the U.S. can be. No wonder 20,000 asylum seekers fled to Canada from our country last year. Whoever thought we would see so many people trying to escape from America?
The President has been shamed into making us believe that he has backtracked on his policy. But the executive order has lots of holes. The administration policy going forward deserves close scrutiny.