I am worried for our country. There are a dozen reasons that worry me, from our laissez-faire attitude about gun violence to the chickens we now send to China for processing. I worry about crops rotting in the fields because migrant workers are too afraid of ICE to show up and pick them. I worry about the decline of our health care system and tax breaks for millionaires and coal tar running into our streams, but mostly I worry about the children of immigrants. I wake up daily from nightmares featuring these kids, no doubt brought on by an obsessive need to watch news stories about their plight.
If you ask most people, you will find that many of them are not far removed from the countries of their ancestors. It has only been two generations since my Jewish grandparents on my father’s side fled the pogroms of Eastern Europe. My maternal grandmother left French-speaking Canada two generations ago and my maternal great-grandparents came here from Ireland four generations back. My daughter is an emigrant from Ethiopia, though she became a citizen four months after her arrival.
It is mere luck that any of us were born here and not in a gang-riddled villages in Nicaragua or El Salvador or Honduras. Imagine fleeing for your life, walking, yes WALKING, about 1,500 miles with only the clothes on your back and a rucksack with a few minor possessions. Once here, ICE agents bind your hands with zip ties and steal your children.
I have heard people say, “What do they expect? They are here illegally.” Questionable moral compass aside, there is only one response to that statement: “It is not illegal to ask for asylum if you come to our border and do not cross over illegally. Even if you did come in illegally, it is not a felony but a misdemeanor. Shall we start taking away the children of jaywalkers as well? After all, that is also a misdemeanor.”
Yes, I am being glib, but make no mistake, this is a crisis. According to the New York Times, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, cited an observation by the president of the American Association of Pediatrics that locking children up separately from their parents constituted “government-sanctioned child abuse.”
President Trump is blaming the Democrats, which is absurd because the separation of children from their parents was introduced by Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 7 of this year (“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.” — Sessions).
The president has also said that he would reverse the situation if the Democrats give him the money to build his ridiculous wall between Mexico and America (Fun fact: According to the Pew Research Center, more Mexicans immigrants are now leaving our country than coming into it.).
On a completely existential plane, we need to ask ourselves if we want to be the country reviled by the rest of the world for treating people like “animals,” a word used by our barely literate leader when referring to desperate people hoping for a better life. Let us never forget that Hitler used similarly derogatory terms to brand Jews, calling them “animals” and “rats.”
The chief architect behind the separation of families is Trump’s advisor, white nationalist Stephen Miller, who recently admitted that it was a “simple decision” to enact this policy. A policy in which children are being flown around the country and put into camps. A policy in which they are not allowed to have human contact, as hugging has been disallowed. A policy in which it has become the onus of poverty-stricken asylum seekers to find their kids with minimal, if any, documentation as to where their stolen children have been warehoused.
According to the Los Angeles Times, these detained children are traumatized and several have attempted suicide. Think about that. Protocols in our country are ruining families and causing kids to want to kill themselves. Where is the country that once welcomed tired and huddled masses?
Many of us are overwhelmed by the need to constantly fight the insanity of a government that did not win the popular vote and flaunts our Constitution at every turn. However, local communities are starting to demonstrate against the separation of these immigrant families. Senators and members of Congress are starting to investigate and speak out. Call them. You can find your Congressperson through this tracker.
Other options to help are at the bottom of this opinion piece from the New York Times.
Don’t forget your history. The people who pretended not to see the ash falling onto their villages were just as complicit as those filling the ovens at concentration camps during World War II. We cannot be those people. We must safeguard our democratic rights before they are whittled away to dust.