Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Opposing the Trump Administration’s Inhumane Treatment of Immigrant Families

This past Sunday I joined with several hundred other people in a protest organized by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee. This protest was against the Trump administration’s new border crossing policy, which has forcibly separated more than 2,000 immigrant children from their parents in recent weeks.

It felt very important to me to take the time to be part of this action. And in doing so I was reminded of my words of December 2016:

I never want to find myself . . . sleepwalk[ing] through life only to be suddenly and rudely awakened by events, especially those portentous of tyranny.

I want to always strive to be informed and proactive about the important political and social issues of the day. I want to be able to say, for instance, Hey, I recognized when things started going awry in a particularly disturbing way, and lifted my voice against it.

That's what Sunday's rally was all about: lifting our voices against the inhumane actions of the Trump administration.

And it wasn't just in Minneapolis. Across the U.S. this past weekend there was a groundswell of opposition against Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border. This opposition continues and it crosses party lines as well as the progressive/conservative divide and the typical boundaries of religious ideology. As my friend Raul so pointedly put it: "There are limits." And it seems that with its "zero tolerance" immigration policy, the Trump regime has, for the majority of Americans, gone beyond what is acceptable.

To be honest, I hope this rising tide of disgust and opposition leads to not only Trump's undoing but also the undoing of the Republican party which because of its cowardly enabling of Trump, is just as morally bankrupt as the president and his administration. Now wouldn't such a downfall be something?

Left: With my friend Sue Ann at Sunday's Fathers Day protest against the Trump administration's reprehensible policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.

Following are some photographs I took at Sunday's protest. In the days to come I'll add to this post excerpts from some of the many well-written and insightful commentaries and op-eds that have been published about this issue.

Yes. Crossing the border without documentation is illegal.

Being black without a white owner was illegal.

Walking into a whites only restaurant was illegal.

In Germany, being Jewish was illegal.

Without ethics, laws are just the stories we tell to justify horror.

– Isi Breen
via Facebook
June 19, 2018

Not sure a country that has a history of selling babies away from their parents in slavery, sending Native children to "boarding schools," and separating families in Japanese internment camps gets to clutch its pearls and cry, "This is not who we are."

It's who we've always been.

– Laura Parrott Perry
via Facebook
June 13, 2018

Over Memorial Day weekend, President Trump tweeted that people should "put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S."

The president implied that children were being separated from their parents at the border because of a law enacted by Democrats.

Actually, the policy in question was enacted by his own administration.

On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech that "If you're smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don't want your child separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally. It's not our fault that somebody does that."

Sessions announced the policy in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Under U.S. law, entering the country illegally is a crime. The Trump administration has decreed that such attempts will be prosecuted, meaning the adults are detained, and any children who accompany them are separated.

White House chief of staff John Kelly told NPR's John Burnett earlier this month that "the children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long. "

Advocates note that many families attempting to enter the U.S. are seeking asylum from gangs and criminal activities in their home countries, and as such are not breaking the law. The U.S. is obligated to accept asylum-seekers under U.S. and international law if they can show a "credible fear" of persecution or torture.

Like many people, I've resisted using this word, but it's time: the deliberate and unnecessary separation of innocent children from their parents, the penning up of children in cages like animals, is evil. It does not proceed from God or from any genuinely moral impulse. It is wantonly cruel and targets the most vulnerable. Its use has been cloaked in lies, another clear sign that it does not proceed in any way from God or from a genuinely moral impulse. And the results – untold misery, deep anguish, physical suffering, widespread division and, ultimately, despair – are also unmistakable signs that this is an evil. As St. Paul wrote, "You will know them by their fruits . . . every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit." (Mt 7:17). That is, the results enable us to recognize an evil. As such, we have a moral obligation to name it and fight against it. Anyone who participates in this kind of wanton cruelty is also guilty of this evil. "I was just following orders" went out with Nuremberg. The decision-makers and all who cooperate in these actions will be judged.

"I was a stranger and you did not welcome me," said Jesus. (Mt 25).

– James Martin, SJ
via Facebook
June 17, 2018

As I write this, the Trump administration is separating small children from their parents on our Southern border. People seeking legal asylum are being prosecuted instead of welcomed, but worse by far is that mothers and fathers are literally being tricked into giving their small children up to border guards. They're being told that after they get their picture taken, or the child is given a bath or whatever, that they will be reunited . . . and then they are not.

There are no words for how this makes me shudder.

And the good news? The people of the United States are going nuts over this. We do have a moral conscience, and this is going too far. The Trump administration, not surprisingly, is claiming that this is happening because of a Democratic bill. But once again not surprisingly, no such bill exists.

It is significant that America’s conscience is being aroused over the mistreatment of children, though as a parent I feel the trauma to the mother or father hearing their small child screaming for the them on the other side of a wall, unable to reach or comfort them or even know if and when they ever will, is equally horrifying. I hope the issue of mistreated or underserved children that this issue is bringing to the forefront will now extend to a larger conversation about America’s children. Even among children who are already citizens, some of the statistics are disturbing.

One in five American children good to bed food insecure each night, and the number is higher among African American children. Thousands of American children go to schools with no school supplies, or even running toilets. And if a child cannot read by the age of 8 prison builders have calculated it's a good investment to build another prison bed.

And what should you do? First, feel the horror. The shame. The absurdity. The lack of social conscience. Do not allow yourself to look away, but rather bear witness to the agony of others. Second, call your Congressperson and Senators at 202 224 3121. Third, consider giving to the ACLU. And most importantly, register to vote. Take part in registration drives. Talk to your friends about voting on Nov. 6. We must, we must, we must, we must. The very soul of our nation is at stake.

Marianne Williamson
via Facebook
June 17, 2018

This is what happens inside children when they are forcibly separated from their parents.

Their heart rate goes up. Their body releases a flood of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Those stress hormones can start killing off dendrites — the little branches in brain cells that transmit mes­sages. In time, the stress can start killing off neurons and — especially in young children — wreaking dramatic and long-term damage, both psychologically and to the physical structure of the brain.

“The effect is catastrophic,” said Charles Nelson, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School. “There’s so much research on this that if people paid attention at all to the science, they would never do this.”

That research on child-parent separation is driving pediatricians, psychologists and other health experts to vehemently oppose the Trump administration’s new border crossing policy, which has separated more than 2,000 immigrant children from their parents in recent weeks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association have all issued statements against it — representing more than 250,000 doctors in the United States. Nearly 7,700 mental-health professionals and 142 organizations have also signed a petition urging President Trump to end the policy.

“To pretend that separated children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma,” the petition reads.

– William Wan
Excerpted from "What Separation from Parents
Does to Children: 'The Effect is Catastrophic'
The Washington Post
June 18, 2018

NEXT: “What We’re Seeing Here Is a Tipping Point”

Related Off-site Links:
Hundreds Gather in Minneapolis to Protest Federal Immigration Policy – Tim Nelson and Gabriel Kwan (MPR News, June 17, 2018).
Separation at the Border: Children Wait in Cages at South Texas Warehouse – Associated Press via The Guardian, June 17, 2018).
How the Trump Administration Defends the Indefensible – Dahlia Lithwick (Slate, June 19, 2018).
The Government Has No Plan for Reuniting the Immigrant Families It Is Tearing Apart – Jonathan Blitzer (The New Yorker, June 18, 2018).
Meet Stephen Miller, the 32-year-old White House Adviser Who Convinced Trump to Start Separating Migrant Children from Their Parents at the Border – Michal Kranz and Ellen Cranley (Business Insider, June 17, 2018).
Trump's Forced Family Separation Policy Has Trashed America's Reputation Globally – Alexander Rivkin, et al (The Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2018).
What You Can Do Right Now to Help Immigrant Families Separated at the Border – Amanda Arnold (The Cut, June 14, 2018).

UPDATES: Trump Reverses Course, Signs Order Ending Family Separations on Southern Border – John Wagner, Nick Miroff and Mike DeBonis (The Washington Post, June 20, 2018).
When the White House Can't Be Believed – David Folkenflik (NPR News, June 20, 2018).
Migrant Children Drugged Without Consent at Government Centers, Court Documents Show – Roque Planas (The Huffington Post, June 20, 2018).
Five Reasons Why Activists Are Calling for the Abolition of ICE – Natascha Uhlmann (Teen Vogue, June 21, 2018).
Military Asked to Provide 20,000 Beds for Detained Immigrant Children – Tom Bowman (NPR News, June 21, 2018).
Record-High 75% of Americans Say Immigration Is Good Thing – Megan Brenan (Gallop, June 21, 2018).
Who’s Really Crossing the U.S. Border, and Why They’re Coming – Stephanie Leutert (Lawfare, June 23, 2018).
Amid Outrage at Family Separations, Trump Supporters Dig InPBS Newshour (June 24, 2018).
Outraged by Kids in Cages? Look at Our Entire Juvenile Justice System – Cara H. Drinan (The Huffington Post, June 24, 2018).
Calls to Abolish ICE Are Becoming More Mainstream. Is Washington Ready for the Conversation? – Zaid Jilani and Aída Chávez (The Intercept, June 27, 2018).
The Truth About Family Reunification: Many Children Separated by Trump Will Never Be Reunited – Marcia Zug (Salon, June 28, 2018).
It's Not Just People in the U.S. Illegally – ICE Is Nabbing Lawful Permanent Residents Too – Brittny Mejia (The Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Jeremy Scahill on the Historical Context of the Trump Administration's "Pathologically Sick" Anti-Immigrant Agenda
Something to Think About – June 14, 2018
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Quote of the Day – March 12, 2018
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

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