When I was four years old, my mother drove me to Nevada and left me with my grandparents. Two months later, she returned to retrieve me. My grandparents are wonderful folks who, at the time, had a lovely home with a horse I very creatively named Black Beauty. My mother, on the other hand, is a mentally ill alcoholic who, at the time, was on her way to her third marriage. Regardless of my mother’s capabilities as a parent, what do you think I remember about that summer? Besides the fact that my grandparent’s dog, a Weimaraner named Hershey, drug me down a dirt road while I held — with the stubbornness unique to four year old me —to her leash, the thing I remember is that I was separated from my mother.
Because here’s the thing about kids and our parents — even lousy parents: we are biologically wired to rely on them. There are entire child development courses based on this fact.
When they reach adulthood, what do you think the children of immigrants who were separated from their parents will remember? Even if they had been drug by a dog along a dirt road, I bet the thing that will most occupy the space of their memories is the fact that they were literally ripped from the arms of their parents. Or maybe what they’ll remember in the trauma of being stowed in a cage like an animal at a shelter. Maybe both.
Of course that’s assuming they aren’t so traumatized that they suppress these memories entirely.
The executive order signed by Trump today does not mean he has suddenly had a Grinch-on-Christmas transformation from a Who-hating, holiday-stealing humbug into a humanitarian. In fact, the order just says that the whole family will now be detained indefinitely for a misdemeanor. If we're really being fair here, let's start locking up whole suburban white families if Mommy jaywalks... Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU lays it bare: "This executive order would replace one crisis for another. Children don't belong in jail at all, even with their parents, under any set of circumstances. If the president thinks placing families in jail indefinitely is what people have been asking for, he is grossly mistaken."
Since May, 2,342 children have been separated from their families.
From NPR: In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered prosecutors along the border to "adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy" for illegal border crossings. That included prosecuting parents traveling with their children as well as people who subsequently attempted to request asylum.
From the Texas Civil Rights Project: Multiple parents reported that they were separated from their children and not given any information about where their children would go. In some cases, the children were taken away under the pretense that they would be getting a bath.
Imagine going to take a bath and coming back to find you no longer have parents.
From Trump himself: "The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. ... Not on my watch."
Before you come at me with the whole “Clinton started it” thing, I know. Yes, this was originally passed under Bill Clinton (known as The Flores Settlement Agreement, designed to deter immigration, but mostly just pissing off us folks on the left) and then upheld by Obama for two terms. This is true. What is also true is that while this agreement has what government calls the “force of law,” it is up to discretion of the individual administration whether or not it should be implemented. As you may have guessed, the Obama administration did not enforce the law.
I can only conclude that this is because Obama is a father and compassionate human being. Also Obama never devoted a moment of time or energy to the planning or implementation of any wall between the US and Mexico. Again with the compassion.
Regardless of when this atrocity is ended, the damage is done.
The problem is that these children and families are damaged, and this damage doesn’t end with a reunification (which, I would add, has yet to happen, and IF it does will happen in detention). Simply reuniting these kids with the parents they were taken from is only the first step in a what is sure to be a lifelong process of healing the PTSD this will most assuredly cause.
Further, these families will probably be deported, where their resources for healing will be even more limited than they would be here.
Our President did this. The leader of the free world advocated for the willful trauma of 2,342 children and their parents. He did this in the name of deterring illegal immigration.
I have an idea: how about if we just let them come in? Oh, are you afraid that they will take your jobs? Compete with your kids to get into college? Are you afraid they will use public assistance or steal your already lousy, cost-prohibitive healthcare?
Or are you able to pause a moment for compassion? Are you able to recognize these people, so destitute, so miserable that they would risk literal life to flee the only home they know, to come to a country where they will have to work their asses off doing something you won't do (picking tomatoes, for example) to feed their families? Where their children will be forcibly removed from them? Where they may never be granted citizenship, in a nation that didn’t even want them in the first place?
Pause for compassion. Please. Consider the pain that this has caused and continues to cause.
I know you are a kind and compassionate person who wants to help. Here’s how:
Donate to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). Or to the ACLU. Or to Glennon Doyle’s charity, Together Rising. Or to Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center:
Use Families Belong Together to find a protest in your area.
Call your representative at (202)224-3121 to stop this process permanently (not just by a misleading and self-serving executive order)
You can also share this:
(You are free to share it at will. I made it but I don’t care if you credit me.)
If you’re in the Texas area, volunteer.
Register to vote (and elect people who care about children and families.)
Most of all, do not be silent. Silence is complacency. Complacency is intolerable.