Mother and child is the strongest bond. Under a new immigration policy, indescribable pain is inflicted upon children through forced separation. Nearly 2,000 children — about 100 of them younger than 4-years-old — are in mass detention centers awaiting family or foster care.
Grieving mothers who lost their children to U.S. custody have no access. This is a “zero tolerance” immigration policy used against asylum seekers and undocumented families making illegal entry through Southwest borders.
Recently, seated at a dinner table with strangers, I said, “It’s heartbreaking. There is no justification for that level of inhumanity.”
But one man felt there was. “They’re illegally coming into the country so it’s their own fault. It seems harsh, but (President Donald) Trump’s just showing he means business. It won’t last long and it’ll all get sorted out.”
I said, “There is no defense ever for traumatizing children.”
I looked at his wife. She lowered her eyes. She couldn’t even look at me and I know why. Woman to woman, we understand, on a visceral level, a mother’s anguish.
Think about your own children, grandchildren, and imagine them taken away for an unknown length of time toward an uncertain end. Until reunited, the horror might feel like being buried alive.
The U.S. was never about tearing families apart. Let’s not start now.
Former First Lady Laura Bush, called it “cruel” and “immoral.” In the Washington Post, Bush wrote: “People on all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer.”
Currently, this policy is heavy on fear and punishment, but light on logistics. No process is in place for reuniting children with their families. Youngsters are warehoused until it gets “sorted out,” in the words of our dinner companion.
For how long? At a temporary shelter in Brownsville, Texas, 1,500 boys, ages 10 to 17, are locked 21-22 hours per day inside a former Walmart. The average wait for a placement decision is 52 days. The current spike of 2,000 children and more will slow the system as tent cities pop up to meet the demand.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement is part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. From October to December 2017, the agency looked into the whereabouts of 7,635 migrant minors — teenagers — who had been assigned placement and HHS reported 1,475 are missing.
Psychologically, will PTSD and issues of terror and abandonment figure into the lives and futures of these innocents? Can anyone say with certainty a prolonged, torturous separation from one’s mother will not have ill effects on a child?
Many intelligent and good Americans find immigration laws complex and hard to fathom. The simple reaction is to support whatever appears to protect our interests. Some may argue that laws and policies are legal and therefore, must be obeyed.
Being legal does not make it right. Slavery was legal. Apartheid was legal. The Holocaust was legal. Immigration reform cannot involve destroying families in such a cruel and chaotic way.
Debates be damned. Every mother in her heart knows this to be true.
— Email Suzette Martinez Standring at email@example.com.