The Line

By David Brooks on June 26, 2018

They cross a line and suddenly their children are snatched from their arms by uniformed agents. They are not isolated cases (more than 1,200 of these incidents have happened  as far as we know), nor is the abuse of authority an isolated case, it is not an aberration. It is the official policy of the United States.

But there is another line that is being crossed, one very clear and defined for everyone from both sides of the border. A line that defines if consciousness still exists or are we already so overwhelmed by so much violence, so accustomed to horror, that we no longer have the capacity to resist another barbarity like this.

These children supposedly are being imprisoned temporarily – sometimes that means several months and in some cases more than a year – in detention centers, while another bureaucracy seeks to place them in homes, often with relatives if they exist and dare to appear as they run the risk of be arrested if they are undocumented.

In some of these centers children separated from their parents, or those who arrived unaccompanied, live with hundreds of children waiting to be processed. Some medical services are offered and there are hundreds of officers, some who show compassion, but in the end they are children caged without their parents, some children under 4 years old.

It is worth noting that all this did not start with Trump, but the so-called crisis of minors who immigrated unaccompanied a few years ago, the government of Barack Obama had  already put them in detention centers, although they were not formally named as such. The Arizona Republic got in 2014 some of the first images of a specialized detention center for children in Nogales, where they are seen sleeping on the floor of a warehouse organized in cages.

But now, the official policy is the separation of minors from their families when crossing the border with Mexico. Today, those centers have reached 90 percent of their capacity, and authorities are looking for new places to deposit minors because soon there will be no space and among the options are some military bases.

There have been protests in dozens of cities in the country, organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and others have pushed lawsuits before national courts and even in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, others promote petitions or lobbying campaigns before Congress to demand an end to this practice.

But before the extreme cruelty of this policy – and its obvious consequences of traumatizing refugees and immigrants fleeing violence, they cross one or more countries in extremely dangerous conditions, only to be criminalized and separated from the children they sought to protect by the regime of Trump.

It does not take much to imagine – it is detailed in reports and even photographs – the cries of anguish and the pain of terror. Again and again, migration agents, some of whom are supposed to have children of their own, are snatching children screaming and crying from their mothers’ arms, and at the end of the day they get to have dinner with their families, some of them probably embrace their children with a clear conscience; after all they are only fulfilling Washington work orders. Many have commented -even relatives of victims- that the Nazis did the same. A banner in a recent protest stated: Please, let’s not be good Germans, in reference to how officers, bureaucrats and lower-ranking Nazi soldiers justified their cruel tasks by arguing that they were patriotic and good people who were only following orders.

The worst terror a child can suffer is being snatched from their parents. Would blond children with blue eyes ever be treated so brutally on our borders? No, “Trumpism is racism, my God, what have we become?” Asked the actor and comedian Jim Carrey by tweet, many comedians have now become spokesmen for conscience in this country.

Sadly, these types of practices are not new in this country. Thousands of children from indigenous communities were separated by the authorities and sent to Indian schools thousands of kilometers away from their villages where their language, culture and history were systematically wiped out, sometimes accompanied by physical punishment and abuses of all kinds; a practice that began in the 19th century and spanned a century until 1970.

The children of African slaves and their descendants were also robbed from their mothers by their masters. Day and night, one could hear screaming men and women … as their relatives were snatched away without warning .”People were always dying from a broken heart.”, recalled a witness to the slave auctions in a 1938 interview. A former slave narrated in 1849 how a child was snatched from the arms of his mother before the most heartrending shrieks from mother and son on the one hand, and the bitter statements and cruel lashes of the tyrants on the other, before the mother was sold to the highest bidder.

No, it is not something new, but it is a moment in which one has to decide if a rigid and absolute line has been crossed or not. They are after all our children;.children of all no matter which side of the border they are on..

La Jornada, translated by Resumen Latinoamericano, North America Bureau