Children and La Migra

By David Brooks on May 28, 2018

US government agents are literally ripping hundreds of children from the arms of their mothers who migrate to the U.S. seeking refuge. The crying is heard, but deafness continues to allow a brutal official policy.

Hundreds of cases are reported at the border in which immigration agents forcibly remove small children, even only two years old, from their mothers, shouting “please, please, I want my mom, do not take me “, And the desolate mothers, without knowing where their children are. There was a case in Arizona of a 53-week-old boy presented before a judge without his mother. In another, a woman was forced to put her youngest son inside a patrol car, only to be taken to an unknown destination.

Lawyers for the defense of immigrants and civil liberties affirm that there is no precedent in these actions, justified by the government as “a firm measure of deterrence” to stop migration.

Since October, more than 700 children have been ripped out of their parents’ arms by immigration agents, 100 of them under the age of four, the New York Times revealed nearly a month ago. Surely there are more today. Some do not know where their children are, nor do the children know where their parents are; sometimes they are thousands of kilometers away, at the other end of this country. Many, perhaps most, have fled their countries to protect their children, traveling thousands of kilometers, only for an officer to separate them by the orders of Washington at the border..

US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (formerly the most anti-immigrant senator in the country) issued the “zero tolerance” order, according to which all those who enter the country illegally, even if it is to seek asylum, will be prosecuted, which implies that they will be imprisoned and, according to those rules, they will be separated from their children while the case proceeds. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen explained to the Senate earlier this month that the new policy applies to all who are caught attempting to cross the border illegally and they will be subject to criminal prosecution even if they apply for asylum and, as a result, will be separated from their children.

She stated that “our policy is that if you violate the law, we will prosecute you. You have an option to go to a port of entry and not to cross into our country illegally”. But even those who cross and report directly to the Border Patrol to declare that they apply for asylum have been separated from their children. Expressions of condemnation have begun to break out and cases are being presented before the courts. The renowned Harvard law professor, Laurence Tribe, describes this policy as “immoral, inhuman and unconstitutional (…) this is monstrous”.

The American Civil Liberties Union denounces that the policy of separating children from their parents as a deterrent to immigrants is, “more than cruel and unnecessary, is torture.” Pediatricians and psychologists have stated that this could possibly cause permanent “trauma” to minors (in case someone had doubts). David Simon, the creator of television series such as The Wire and Treme, a former journalist, commented: “Do you understand how Nazi like someone has to be to pluck a frightened and crying child from his/her mother, without assuring or offering an explanation of when that child will see his mother again?

They should be ashamed of themselves. We are a country of shit.”  But to add something more cynical and sinister, Trump himself described this policy as “horrible” and blamed the Democrats. In a tweet this Saturday he wrote: “put pressure on the democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from their parents once they cross the border of the United States”, implying that if the wall is built and legal migration programs are canceled, this would be unnecessary. But Trump can put an end to this policy right now, since the law he mentions does not oblige the children to be separated from their parents.

The  White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, defended this policy a few days ago, he explained that, “the children will be put in foster care, or whatever”. But recently it was revealed that in that system nearly 1,500 undocumented children, who have been placed by the federal authorities in homes of “sponsors” (usually family members) or foster homes, are missing. Between October and December of 2017, the refugee office in charge of these matters communicated with the homes of about 8 thousand cases, but they did not manage to locate a thousand 475 minors, however, the senators were informed that the office “is not legally responsible for children. ”

Meanwhile, a new report reveals that more than 100 immigrant children – many of them asylum seekers – have been beaten, threatened, deprived of food, water, medical attention and even sexually abused by the immigration authorities of this country. The report prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) covering the period between 2009 and 2014 (during the presidency of Obama, that is, not all this bad is attributable to Trump) concludes that the agency of Customs and Border Control ( CBP) shows “a pattern of intimidation, harassment, physical abuse, denial of medical services, and inappropriate deportation.” Moreover, there is “a culture of impunity” before the submission of immigrant children to conditions that in the best of cases are of neglect, and “in the worst case is sadistic.”

How is it that politicians (and candidates) and citizens not only from the United States but also from the countries of origin of these victims -including Mexico- do not respond to the cries and crying of mothers for their children separated by force, lost and mistreated?

The brutality against children supposedly should be intolerable, especially when it is the official policy. For now – with notable and noble exceptions – it is accepted from both sides of the border. Faced with this barbarity, as they say, silence is complicity.

Source:  La Jornada, translated by Resumen Latinoamericano, North America Bureau