Separating Children from Parents: Small Crime, Big Punishment

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So one week ago our biggest problem here in the heart of America centered around Trump’s treatment of allies and dictators. Now all holy hell has broken loose and we are an angry and grieving nation, sent into chaos by an old man with too much power surrounded by too many sycophants, an old man who wants his way at all cost. He may be our president but he also is a paranoid old coot. He thinks he is being cheated all the time. He thinks the families at the border are pretending to be families and that they are actually gang members coming to wreak havoc in Trump’s America so he is separating families. (He hugged a flag – apparently he has hugged multiple flags.) (I love America but I don’t go around hugging flags. America’s people should be the true recipient of our President’s love.)

Trump does not actually tempt families to break the law at the border. But the lines at the border are long and the lines that go through customs do not represent a way in, because people are being turned away. So people decide to jump the line, to come in where there is no customs presence. Usually I find line jumpers maddening but in this case this behavior could be seen as “thinking outside the box”. These people paid money to travel, they may have been traveling uncomfortably for weeks. They find themselves, at the end of their journey, sitting under a brutal sun, with no shade available, no food, no facilities, waiting for a chance to get in a line to enter the “promised land”. We can attest to their good intentions because after their illegal crossing they turn themselves in to border guards.

But once they leave that legal line and find an unauthorized place to cross the border they have come to a crucial moment that leads to repercussions that they have never dreamt of. As soon as they do this Trump knows that they can be charged with a misdemeanor and arrested. Since they have been charged with a crime, however small, they have insured that the system will now treat them without mercy. Now they will not go to court to argue for asylum; they will now go to court to decide if they are guilty of a crime, and since they clearly are, they will be deported. Since they have been arrested they can and will, under Trump’s zero tolerance policy, be separated from any children who came with them.

What happens to the parents is bad and seems all out of proportion to their “crime”. What happens to the children is even worse. They lose their parent/s and they may never be reunited with their family again. There is no plan for how these families, once separated, will ever be able to locate each other again. No useful records are being kept at the border. All is chaos. Shelters are hurriedly located and stocked. Meanwhile children are held in cages with no adults to comfort them and no activities to occupy them. They loll on mats on the floor in freezing cold warehouses until they can be moved to a new warehouse, but one that at least has beds. Some children are kept this way for days before they can be placed. Children cannot understand their changed circumstances. What are they thinking in their small heads? What will they remember about this as they grow up? Parents who would die for their children are dumbfounded by this. They have no way to help their child. They are left with either deep and abiding sadness, or anger, and a determination to fight a huge and impenetrable bureaucracy to have their child returned to them.

This old misguided fool of ours has gone over the line – he has turned humane America into something monstrous, something cold and inhuman. America wants to wall them out. America thinks they are animals. America is what its leaders say it is. That is the face we present to the world. Our President is acting as if America is being overrun with cockroaches and he has to physically brush them off, push them back through the open door and then slam and lock it. If they were cockroaches this would not work. They are not bugs, they are people, and it still will not work.

Actions have consequences, the world will soon give up on America, accept that the America they knew, such a short time ago, is gone. We will get the isolation we’re asking for but it will feel more like shunning. Trump’s cruelty to families from our neighbors in South America will affect how these people feel about America for generations.

It is no consolation that this all proves that Trump’s “overkill” immigration plan has no merit. Trump is the one who needs to be convinced and he is, according to himself, never wrong. He fears that if he is not adamant about “the wall” he will lose all credibility. He can hug our flag all he wants but he is breaking hearts all over America.

There are now four centers to hold babies, “tender age” children, who have been separated from their parents. These parents, we are told, may never be reunited with their children again. Why are we just going ballistic now when this has been the policy for more than a month? Because last week this reached critical mass. And because now we are also told that there was no plan for reuniting these separated families at some point in the future. There is no system to keep track of each child and to be aware of where each child ends up. Once a parent is deported and their child remains in America being reunited is an extremely remote possibility.

We cannot have a nation unless we have borders is what we are always told. That’s true by definition I guess. But we can have porous borders, or strict borders, or closed borders, our choice. We can issue temporary visas for anyone who enters. We could require passports to enter. We certainly need to have much clearer laws about asylum. We could have a border at Mexico like the border we have with Canada. We could have the same laws at both borders. If you build a wall people will try to get over the wall. Then we will have to decide whether we will shoot them or not.

If we let people come and go with minimal documents we do run the risk that everyone will want to come and few will want to go. Not all South American nations are as peaceful and well-regulated as Canada is and people will bring their issues with them. But they can also be sent back across the border. That certainly would not be any more expensive than housing children with all the proper attendant services.

There is not any perfect solution to our border with Mexico if we open America up to all South Americans and any other person who comes in through South American. We have not created a foolproof system for tracing long-term guests when they enter our country and getting rid of them when they commit mayhem. We probably cannot create a foolproof system unless we can keep track of both citizens and noncitizens. Do citizens lose too much freedom in such a system? Is watching children being torn from their parents and sent into exile in a strange land better? Wouldn’t it be easier to give up another piece of our rather illusive freedom rather than to turn children with parents into parentless clients of our social services system. Wouldn’t it be easier than building a tall and useless wall along our southern border? There is unlikely to be a consensus on either plan. Whatever we do, we need to stop doing this.

(There was a screen shot on Facebook yesterday of a conversation between some Americans. This scum, motivated by a President who encourages hate, suggested that these children could be kept as an organ donor bank for real Americans. It was taken down later in the day. This is shameful behavior. Sick.)

Photo Credit: NDTV.com

This is a view from the cheap seats.