Forsaking Children Is Not an American Value
Children are dying in government custody. It’s time to re-examine our priorities.
Nothing gets right down to the center of my mom-heart than imagining my children in pain. On my comfortable couch, in suburban America, I imagine my 9-year-old son dirty, cold, and alone in a cell. I imagine the fear in his heart and the tears he would shed not knowing where I was, or when he would see me again. This is as far as I get.
I cannot imagine him sleeping on a cement floor, making the choice to cover himself with his one blanket or protect his lean hips from the hardness of the cement floor. Imagining my baby, my heart outside my body, begging for more food, or being expected to help a younger child comb the lice out of their hair is beyond me. When I begin to imagine my 13-year old son with sensory processing issues red, crying, and rocking back and forth in the corner of a chain-link cell, I have to walk away from this piece.
Attorneys: Texas border facility is neglecting migrant kids
EL PASO, Texas (AP) - A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15…
I have already had to take several breaks while writing this because I feel that familiar squeeze of the warning signs of impending panic. I’m not sure how many days it’s been since I first read the lawyer’s account of what they found at a Texas detention center where separated children are being detained.
We went to a border detention center for children. What we saw was awful
Children taking care of children, scant access to family members, regular showers, bathing, toothbrushes, proper beds…
The only word I can think of to describe what I’m feeling is despair. Despair and a complete loss for knowing what to do. This isn’t separation. This is kidnapping and imprisonment.
'Children Were Dirty, They Were Scared, and They Were Hungry'
The previous week my colleagues from the Flores team were in Ursula [a detention center in McAllen, Texas] interviewing…
This isn’t some left-wing conspiracy theory. These are widespread articles on AP and CNN, outlining egregious human rights violations in the country I live in. It’s reprehensible, sickening, and shameful. I don’t want this to be who we are.
If anyone can, please tell me now, what is the difference between what is happening to these children and what happened to children in Auschwitz? I know there are people that will balk at the comparison, but aside from the absence of literal killing chambers, these kids basic needs are not being met: they don’t have enough food, they aren’t able to clean themselves, and they are getting sick because of overcrowding. Let’s remember that Anne Frank and her sister died of typhus fever, ill because of the conditions they’d been forced to live in.
When Trump was elected, my disbelief rapidly glommed on to my depression, reinforcing the nihilistic feelings I was having about things being so far from okay. 2016 was not the best year for me, and it was coming to a spectacular, flaming ending before my eyes. It wasn’t just him, but the people who gained strength from his ridiculous, improbable winning gambit. Who gained courage to be cruel and inhumane and violent.
My words escaped like prayers, I begged on election night:
Please, don’t let this be who we are.
I thought I was seeing the worst parts of humanity. It turns out, I’d set the bar far too high, and there was still an abyss beneath waiting to swallow us up. I mean, I knew there could be worse. I just didn’t think that worse could happen here. Now.
I have been avoiding the news because it’s not funny anymore. Not that it ever was, but at first I felt like it was just a bad period we had to power through. I assured myself he’d never make it through the full four years, how could he? Law after law trampled, but now we are 3 years in and it hasn’t happened and he just grows more and more dangerous.
After the inauguration, my mom told me that things happening now reminded her of the politics, struggles, activism of her earlier years. Politics always swing back and forth, bad times come and go. It seemed like maybe if we breathed, we could get through this and that the nightmare that is our 45th president would pass. Someday, we would wake.
I pinch myself, but I’m not waking up.
I’ve never been a particularly patriotic person, but at least I had faith in the idea that this country was not a place that would kidnap children from their parents and then treat them worse than criminals in jail. I feel like everything has been turned on it’s head, the world is spinning and I think I might be sick.
When I was in middle school, I read Number the Stars. I think maybe I read it more than once. The periods in history that have most engaged me center on times when humans forsook one another, because to my heart it is incomprehensible.
I did not learn about the Japanese Internment Camps in school. I was in my late teens before I heard of their existence. That I knew people whose parents had been there was incomprehensible.
They say that history repeats itself, and… here we are. I am still trying to comprehend what is happening, and to decide when, how, and to what depth to share with my children about what is happening.
It’s the same and different both, the underlying abandonment of the love in our hearts and the kinship of humanity abundant.
Children are dying.
Children. Babies. Younger than my babies. In the Atlantic article above, Mukherjee points out:
It’s worth noting that over the last year, seven children have died in federal immigration custody. When you look at the data for nearly the previous decade, there was not a single death. There was not a single reported death of a child in federal immigration custody.
They are alone, frightened, untouched, uncomforted, and undone. Even when they are reunited, they will be forever changed in the most heart-wrenching ways imaginable. We have broken them.
How Family Separation Traumatized Children
On June 13, 2018, Honduran asylum-seeker Anita and her five-year-old son, Jenri, were forcibly separated at the…
Even without firsthand accounts, without the images of tents and single file lines, of dark cells crowded with children, guards with guns and chain-link fences, without the maddening tweets our supposed leader shares, I feel a scream rising in my throat. I try to swallow it before I gag, and find myself legitimately fearing I might vomit.
My heart, my soul, writhe with the unfeelable, the empathic primal terror of families separated, of children alone, of mothers mad with the absence of their babies.
I’m on the and I’m afraid that if I cry I may be washed away by tears that won’t stop. And still I know those tears will not be enough to wash away the horror of hatred, fear, racism, privilege, and inhumanity.
I don’t know what to do.
I am unsettled, I am unfocused, even with all the avoidance I could muster, I cannot stop thinking about it. I don’t think I want to talk about it. I don’t think I can be civil or polite or in any way rational. I don’t think I can be very coherent.
There is no angle from which you are right by persecuting people, by punishing children, by imprisoning babies.
Please, don’t let this be who we are.
This is not a matter of a lack of resources. This is a conscious choice being made by our government to treat people as less than human. These are children. These are mothers’ babies.
I feel paralyzed and helpless. States away, all I want is to somehow go to these kids and take them away from there, and it’s not possible. I search for ideas online for concrete actions I can take. They’re desperately lacking, but they’re all I’ve got.
5 powerful ways we can help detained immigrant children today
We teach our children to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs, brush their teeth to prevent cavities, and we…
Nothing is going to feel like enough, but we have to do what we can.
Lights for Liberty will be holding candlelight vigils in dozens of cities on July 12 to show support for Immigrant Rights. I will be at my local rally, if nothing else, to show the other people whose hearts are despairing that they are not alone.
One thing every single person can do is write, email, and make phone calls to our representatives in Congress and the Senate, urging them to put an immediate stop to this horrific travesty. You can find information on your representatives here, and information on your senators here. The National Immigrant Justice Center has a pre-composed message here to tell your congresspeople to defund Immigration Jails and Family Separation.
I wish I had more to say, that I had words of encouragement or hope, that I still believed that we are better than this. That I could tell you not to be afraid, that the end was in sight, that somehow this would be rectified. I know, this doesn’t feel like enough. It isn’t enough. But right now it’s all I’ve got.
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