BACKGROUND: Recently the US government instituted a “zero tolerance” policy for people seeking asylum, who arrive illegally in the USA. While past administrations had detained entire families as they wait for an adjudication hearing, this is the first time children, some as young as 12 months old, have literally been ripped from the arms of their parents as soon as they step on US soil. These children are bussed to detention centers, where witnesses have observed them being held in cages with cement floors. Since this policy went into affect in May, it swelled the ranks to 10,000 children who have needed to be housed in hundreds of shelters around the country. With this new influx, previous child detainees who came over without parents, called “unaccompanied minors” are being crowded out. Yesterday the government considered building tent cities on military bases in Texas to house them. A few days ago, the government decided that domestic violence or fleeing gang violence were not acceptable issues to be granted asylum. The administration is using these stricter policies to deter illegal immigration to our shores.
PROBLEM: Our government wants to secure our borders and deter dangerous illegal immigrants such as those with gang affiliations or others seeking to infiltrate our country in order to do damage.
PROBLEM: The problem with separating parents from children is that it causes trauma. One illegal immigrant father, on being separated from his toddler killed himself a few days ago. The children are not allowed to say goodbye, snatched away from their only source of love and security, put on buses and taken to new and strange places with strangers. They have no assurances of reunion, no timeline, no freedom. These children are being systematically traumatized by this enormous stress. Also, reports have come out of abuses by people working at these detention centers, including sexual abuse of minors. So we have two problems: unwanted illegal immigration and psychologically cruel treatment of children and parents.
SOLUTION: I do not know the solution to illegal immigration. History does show that those who are desperate enough to leave a war-torn or corrupt or life-threatening environment at home will risk life and limb to seek a sanctuary. They will keep coming to our shores, unless we become just as corrupt as the countries they fled from. The United Nations last week declared this new USA policy to be illegal, as it violates the rights of the child. In defending the policy a White House spokesperson said that those countries that are criticizing us should attend to their own abuses. This is a communication defense known as “cross-blaming.” By ignoring the extreme suffering of crying children who are yanked away from their parents and rationalizing it as “following the law”, I think we are taking a step closer toward our own corruption. Once we normalize a policy that abuses children in any way, we begin to lose our human decency, as a people and as a nation. This results in a corrosive effect on the values of our country as a beacon of hope. The Statue of Liberty will drop her torch in shame.
I do have a solution for the separation of parents and children at the border. Stop doing it! It is cruel and inhumane. House families together as they await a hearing.
I was thrilled to find the following quote from a US president denouncing a policy of cruelty.
Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
Franklin D. Roosevelt