By Janet Murguía, UnidosUS President and CEO
The Trump administration’s war on Latinos has spared no one — not even children. In the weeks since the administration publicly revealed its “zero tolerance” policy that separates children from their parents, we have seen consequences that have been nothing short of barbaric.
Some 700 children have been taken from their parents since May. Nearly 1,400 children have been separated from their parents since last October, and several hundred of those children are under the age of four. There are now more than 11,000 children in detention or shelters.
And reports from the border have been both stomach-turning and heartbreaking. A father from Honduras who was being held in detention committed suicide last month. A baby was wrenched from its mother while she was breastfeeding. Parents are not being allowed to explain to their children what’s going on.
Some parents have been misled by officials that the separation is merely temporary, while the information about what parents can do is available only in English. No wonder that members of Congress have witnessed children crying themselves to sleep or crying out for their moms and dads.
Every day brings a fresh hell to this crisis. On Monday it was Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s announcement that domestic violence will generally no longer be accepted as a reason for asylum. The number of women and children who will now be subjected to violence, harm, and even death will undoubtedly climb. And yesterday, the administration announced that it was looking at setting up a “tent city” to house children in El Paso where, as I write, the temperature is 105 degrees.
Whatever your feelings on immigration policy, punishing babies, toddlers, and young children by separating them from their parents should seem needlessly and ostentatiously cruel. It is for good reason, then, that the outrage has been swift, widespread, and cross-cutting.
Even the president has shown signs of buyer’s remorse by trying to pin the blame on Democrats. What a lie and what a coward. This is your policy, Mr. President. Just ask Attorney General Sessions. You own this and you have the power to end this.
And it is just not undocumented children who have become casualties of Sessions’s and Trump’s relentless assault on our community. Internal immigration enforcement such as raids is not only ineffective, expensive, and disruptive of businesses and communities, it also separates U.S.-citizen children from their parents. Just last week, a raid on a landscaping company in Ohio left dozens of children stranded in daycare and school.
Jeff Sessions may think it’s awesome to traumatize young children to make his bigoted dreams of an Hispanic-free America come true. But the rest of the country should be appalled.
So we are asking those who are sickened and horrified by what is transpiring to do two things. First, join your fellow Americans in urging an immediate end to this unnecessary and un-American brutality. And second, support the organizations below who are on the ground every day providing legal help and support to these children and their families. If you think this is not the America you know, say so and act.