It is hard to fathom that the White House administration is able to continue with their new zero tolerance policy of separating mothers and fathers from their children, for the crime of trying to start a new life for themselves. Many of these immigrants are asylum seekers, and even if they are not, taking children from their parents is wrong, regardless of whether they arrived legally or not.
This policy of separation may be a mistake that the United States will pay for in the coming years, and even generations. These immigrants travel hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles, on foot, by truck or boat, with little food and few comforts, because things back home are so desperate that they feel they have no other hope for the future.
This administration is shamefully hiding behind previous immigration practices that were intended to keep children from being detained for crossing the border with their families to deny their active role in this crisis. The draconian policy of zero tolerance now being implemented is that anyone that enters the country illegally will be prosecuted, and since their parents are prosecuted, the children are separated, “as required by law.” Each forced separation is a human rights violation, even if Attorney General Jeff Sessions misuses bible passages in support of his twisted policy.
Reports show that in just a couple of weeks, 700 families have been separated under this new policy, including asylum seekers. Any asylum seekers fleeing their home countries must enter the United States to be able to request asylum and are being prosecuted and separated from their children in the same way. Not only is it horrible for the asylum seekers to undergo this separation after their terrible experiences, the UN, human rights and immigration rights advocates, and doctors all agree that separating children from their parents is traumatic and harmful for the children, especially considering that they have no control over their parents’ actions, not to mention the pain felt by the parents.
Previously, families were kept together as often as possible, whereas now they are placed in detention facilities that sound a lot like jail, and family members may end up thousands of miles apart. In one facility in Texas, there are over 1400 children essentially incarcerated; these children need protection, not punishment. Not only that, but expectant mothers are suffering more too, as pregnant women are only being released on a case by case basis, rather than being generally released, as previously.
Sessions has even declared that domestic violence and gang violence victims are no longer eligible for asylum protection, despite the incredible dangers that they may face in their home countries, as seen in the caravans of immigrants recently arrived from Central America. It is incomprehensible to deny the possibility of asylum to victims of domestic violence, which may include rape and death.
Even though Trump has tried to drum up fear by describing the immigrant caravans as a dangerous threat, the reality is that caravans are families traveling together, desperate for safety and a new beginning for their children. For them to finally arrive, only to have their children taken from them, with little to no explanation and for no reason, is indefensible and needs to stop.
Elizabeth Frankel, associate director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights observes of the children that have been separated from their parents, “we see kids who can’t sleep, can’t eat, that are regressing developmentally, that cry all the time.” As Canadians are all too aware, this trauma may last a lifetime or even through generations. Our national shame also involves the forced separation of children; government and religious officials took indigenous children from their families and communities for no real reason and with little explanation, forcing them to attend religious, residential schools, far from home, a practice also done in the US. Canada also had the Sixties Scoop, placing children from Indigenous families into the child welfare system, similar to what John Kelly described as “put into foster care or whatever,” that inflicted wounds from which many Canadians are still suffering.
Every single American, and Canadian, should demand a stop to the practice of separating families and to insist that asylum seekers be treated appropriately under US and international law and that domestic violence and gang violence continue to be legitimate reasons to claim asylum. Silence is not an option for anyone. Every country and person that believes in human rights and that this treatment is wrong should speak out and let the US government know that these actions will not stand.